Getting Credit for In-Bank Training

Want to make headway toward a college diploma without leaving your job? One way may be through courses offered by your bank and approved by New York State's Board of Regents.

Bank employees who complete such course work can pile up credits toward an undergraduate or graduate degree.

The courses need the sanction of the regents' National Program on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction.

Made-to-Measure Offerings

Banks can customize course work to meet specific needs.

"The cost benefit is obvious," said one Citibank official.

The regents' program was launched in 1973. Besides Citibank, Manufacturers Hanover Corp., National Westminster Bancorp, and KeyCorp have had some courses approved.

Other participants include the American Institute of Banking, the New York Institute of Credit, and the American Bankers Association.

Through the regents' program, many women "who discontinued their education to raise children can now get credit toward their degrees and not have it cost them one cent," said Ray Doring, vice president in charge of training at Albany, N.Y.-based KeyCorp.

No Charge

"We have tellers and head tellers with no degrees who participate," said Sheila Messina, a human resources officer at National Westminster in New York. "This gives them six credits in their pockets."

Employees who complete graded courses can have their transcripts sent to colleges throughout the country in hope they will accept the credits.

Nearly 1,000 schools throughout the country have accepted the New York regents' recommendations.

At Manufacturers Hanover, approved classes are offered in financial and risk management, foreign exchange, and the principles of capital markets.

From 56 to 102 Hours

Citibank's current courses include fundamentals of credit analysis, teller training, and customer service.

Each Citibank course takes from 56 to 102 hours to complete. Potential credit runs from three to four undergraduate semester hours.

Most of the Citibank courses are taught by inside staff. "We want the learning to be based on experience in real-life situations," a Citibank official explained.

At NatWest, most courses are taught by hired professors.

Obstacle Course

Winning the regents' approval is not easy. KeyCorp began its dialogue with the state authorities nearly 2 1/2 years before it received approval for six of its training courses.

But KeyCorp officials said the application process sharpened the quality of its instruction.

The review "entailed assembling large volumes of records and documents," said KeyCorp's Mr. Doring. Two evaluation teams visited KeyCorp courses, rated the material and the qualifications of the instructors, and made specific recommendations.

No Workshops, Please

"We suggest that banks make their courses as generic as possible, in order to more closely match college requirements," said Sheila A. Murdick, director of the regents' program since 1985.

To win approval, a course must include at least 30 hours of classroom instruction. It "can't be just a workshop for which there is a certificate," Ms. Murdick said.

Oral presentations, written exams, or performance tests are needed to prove that the students master the subject matter. Otherwise, "we can't assure colleges that the work is being done," Ms. Murdick said.

To win the inclusion in the regents' program, banks must submit extensive detail on the courses, including objectives, text titles, and a session-by-session schedule of topics.

Six weeks after this information is submitted, an on-site evaluation is conducted by a supervisor from the regents, two academic experts, and one professional on the subject matter.

NatWest's Experience

Ms. Messina, who is now responsible for NatWest's ongoing program, led the company in seeking the regents' approval in 1987, while she herself was a trainee.

"Even though our management training program had been in place for six years," she said, winning the regents' endorsement "wasn't an easy process."

The regents currently list NatWest's courses on the principles of financial accounting and on money, banking, and financial markets.

|A Very Lengthy Process'

"The review committee examined our tests, text, and instructors," who are college professors, she said. Committee members "look to see where grades are housed and check out the library facilities available. It's a very lenghty process."

When a course fails to win approval, the regents' staff recommends changes, which can range from extensive overhaul to such administrative measures as how grades are recorded.

"If a company is on the West Coast, we can work together by mail, phone, and fax," Ms. Murdick said. "The goal is to have the courses completely ready when our team comes on site to observe."

Minimizing Costs

Approval charges start at $4,525 per day, to cover the evaluators' fees and administrative costs. Added to this is any travel expenses incurred by the evaluation team.

After approval, annual fees are charged, starting at $300 for up to five courses.

Ms. Murdick said banks can save on the fees by arranging for more than one course to be evaluated at the same time. After five years, reevaluation is required.

Ms. Homa is a New York-based freelance writer.

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