Skip to main content

Meeting of the Board of Regents | March 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 11:40pm

sed seal                                                                                                 





Signature of Joe Frey


Joseph P. Frey


Permission to Operate in New York State: Saint Mary’s College of California


February 23, 2010






 Issue for Decision (Consent Agenda)

              Should the Board of Regents give Saint Mary’s College of California permission to offer courses from its Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree program in Performing Arts in New York City?

Reason(s) for consideration

              Required by State regulation.

Proposed Handling

              The question will come before the full Board at its March 2010 meeting where it will be voted on and action taken.

Procedural history

              Saint Mary’s College of California, located in Moraga, CA, seeks Regents permission to offer 12 courses from its Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree program in Performing Arts in New York City. These 12 Liberal Arts courses would be offered to professional dancers in the New York City area at convenient class locations, with scheduling that accommodates the dancers’ work obligations. 

Saint Mary’s College of California was established in 1863. It is accredited by the Western Association of School and Colleges.  It offers undergraduate and graduate-level programs integrating liberal and professional education. Currently enrollment at the College is about 3,600 students.

Saint Mary’s College is seeking authorization to offer courses in New York City because it believes that it can serve a unique and underserved population of students: professional dancers, who often do not have an opportunity to pursue an academic education beyond secondary school due to the constraints inherent in their rigorous training, performing, and touring schedules. Consequently, the College has packaged this sub-set of courses from its B.A. degree program in Performing Arts, which it has designated the “LEAP Program” (Liberal Education for Arts Professionals), to enable professional dancers to pursue coursework within a flexible schedule and at locations convenient to their performance venues.

The College currently offers “LEAP” courses in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and since 2007 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Saint Mary’s College is applying for Regents Permission to Operate in New York State so that it can serve its New York City students more efficiently and eliminate their commute to New Jersey. Dancers from such prestigious companies as the New York City Ballet, Merce Cunningham, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and a number of Broadway productions have taken or are taking courses at the New Jersey location. If Regents permission is granted, the New Jersey location would be closed.

Saint Mary’s College of California submitted its application for Regents Permission to Operate in December 2008. Subsequent to a preliminary review of the proposal, the Department requested additional information from the College, including an external review of the proposed offering by an outside expert, a doctorally credentialed specialist in the Performing Arts. Based on the Department’s review, as well as the evaluation report submitted by the consultant, the Department has determined that the College’s proposed activities in New York City and the courses it would like to offer meet satisfactory academic standards.

              In New York, Saint Mary's is seeking to offer one course every fall, spring, and summer semester to cohorts of 18-20 students.  A new cohort would be admitted each fall with a maximum of three cohorts attending classes in any given semester.  To be considered for admission to these courses, candidates must have a minimum of two years of paid professional employment as a dancer and a high school diploma (or the equivalent).  The admissions process includes a writing skills evaluation and a personal interview.  Total enrollment (part-time) in New York in any given year would be approximately 60 students.

              Courses would be held in media-equipped conference rooms of conveniently located upscale hotels and would be taught by Saint Mary's faculty (40 percent full-time, 60 percent adjunct). All full-time faculty are doctorally credentialed or have other terminal degrees in the subject which they would teach. Through an agreement with Manhattan College (Saint Mary's sister college in the Lasallian tradition), students will have full access to the Manhattan College library as well as to the Saint Mary’s College library via delivery of books and materials to students' homes, interlibrary loan, and comprehensive online services.


              Consistent with its planning process, in December 2009, the Department conducted a canvass of all degree-granting institutions of higher education in the New York City region. The Department received responses from 12 institutions. One institution (Fordham University) objected to the proposed program, while the remainder offered no objections; two institutions, the New York Studio School and Queensborough Community College, wished Saint Mary’s College well. Fordham University expressed concern about the effect of the program on its B.A. degree programs, citing in particular competition with its adult programs at Lincoln Center in Manhattan:


Our current adult program at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, at the very heart of the artistic performance capital of the world, currently recruits heavily among dancers from the American Ballet Theater, the NYC Ballet, The Rockettes, Suzanne Farrell’s Company, Broadway Theater Dancers and other professional dance ensembles in New York. […] Approval of this program would directly compete and be detrimental to our existing degree granting program.

              Fordham’s response also described the resources and structures the University has established to accommodate professional dancers who enroll in the adult degree programs offered by the University’s College of Liberal Studies at each of the University’s campuses. According to its response, Fordham expects a class of about 40 dancers for fall 2010. Fordham’s response states that their program is growing and that they often attract students from Saint Mary’s program, in part because it doesn’t offer full services of a developed undergraduate program.

              Saint Mary’s College provided a comprehensive response to Fordham’s objections. Key points and program attributes include the following:


  • When Saint Mary’s College was developing its LEAP model in 1998, Fordham generously provided data and support to Saint Mary’s. In addition, after the College was licensed to operate in New Jersey, the LEAP Director met with the Associate Dean of Fordham’s College of Liberal Studies. At this meeting, it was concluded that together, Saint Mary’s and Fordham could serve the New York dance community well.


  • Forty percent of LEAP’s students are retired, ethnic, freelance, or unemployed dancers, a population that was previously not being served.


  • Saint Mary’s program utilizes a cohort model, with a maximum of 18 – 20 students in each cohort, which provides students the ongoing support of the group, a strong learning community, and an exceptionally high level of personal attention by the faculty and staff.


  • As Saint Mary’s College only offers a core curriculum of 12 Liberal Arts courses (currently in New Jersey), the College has consistently counseled their students to concurrently take additional courses at other colleges, including Fordham. The College has also helped two dancers to transfer their credits to Fordham.


  • LEAP’s small size allows the College to provide students with a unique educational environment. The dancers feel understood, because they are surrounded by people who know about the world of dance and the issues of career transition. The goal is to determine and provide what best serves each student’s academic needs.


  • Saint Mary’s College does offer valuable services and features, including an administrative presence on-site before each class; academic counseling as well as career development counseling; a core curriculum that was created for adult learners; financial aid assistance; custom-designed class schedules; computerized access to the digital resources of the Saint Mary’s College Library as well as on-campus library services provided through an agreement with Manhattan College. In addition, the librarians at both Manhattan College and Saint Mary’s College are available to students throughout their course of study.


  • Before Saint Mary’s College started to serve the New York City dance community by offering courses in 2007 in New Jersey, professional dancers from major companies could look to both Fordham University and Long Island University. Retired, freelance, ethnic, and unemployed dancers had no special program. Now, unfortunately, the LIU program at the American Ballet Theatre has been discontinued. This leaves just Fordham and Saint Mary’s College of California to cater to a large and diverse population of dancers.


              At issue is a relatively small number of students. Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus has an enrollment of at least 7,000 students, who have a choice of 32 B.A. and B.S. degree programs offered through the University’s College of Liberal Studies. Saint Mary’s College of California is requesting to offer only 12 Liberal Arts courses to a maximum of 60 part-time students per academic year.

              With over a dozen major dance companies based in New York City, as well as dancers affiliated with the Metropolitan Opera and many Broadway musicals, it would appear that the market for student dancers is sufficiently large to accommodate both Fordham University and the proposed offering by Saint Mary’s College of California. Indeed, in December 2009, the Department received a petition in support of the College’s request for Permission to Operate, signed by 40 dancers affiliated with a range of dance companies, including the New York City Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Radio City Music Hall, National Dance Institute, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. These are among some of the most prominent dance companies in the City.

                            In addition, the College’s application for Permission to Operate in New York City included letters of support from the American Ballet Theatre, Steps on Broadway, and Career Transition for Dancers, a non-profit organization headquartered in New York City whose mission is to assist and counsel dancers through the transition they face when finishing their dance careers.

              The following table provides a summary of additional information on Fordham University’s College of Liberal Studies and the proposed offering by Saint Mary’s College of California.



Fordham College of Liberal Studies

St. Mary’s College: LEAP Program


Degrees offered

Choice of 32 B.A. and B.S. degree programs

LEAP program culminates in B.A. in Performing Arts from St. Mary’s College in California

Core curriculum

18 Liberal Arts & Sciences courses

Request is to offer only 12 Liberal Arts & Sciences courses in NY City

Enrollment by institution

Total undergraduate enrollment at Fordham Main Campus: 13,882 in Fall 2009

Total current undergraduate enrollment: 3636

Enrollment of dancers

Expect enrollment of about 40 dancers for Fall 2010; number is growing.

Enrollment in NY in any given year would be approx. 60 students; 40% are retired, ethnic, freelance, or unemployed dancers.

Tuition cost

$675 per credit; $450 with discount

$23,400 for entire “LEAP program” ; as low as $260 per credit with discount

Financial aid

Provides a 1/3 tuition discount to dancers with a company or program.

Tuition discount also offered to freelance, unemployed and retired dancers. Scholarship fund includes support from the Jerome Robbins Foundation.


          It is recommended that permission be granted to Saint Mary’s College of California, to offer 12 courses from its Bachelor of Arts in Performing Arts program, for a period beginning on March 9, 2010 and ending on March 8, 2015.


Quote is from a letter from Fordham University to the President of Saint Mary’s College dated January 9, 2010.

Source: NYSED Office of Research and Information Services, 1/27/2010

Source: Figure provided by Saint Mary’s College, 2/4/2010.