Four-year colleges and universities must adapt to meet the needs of adult learners, writes Susan C. Aldridge, president of University of Maryland University College (UMUC) in the Baltimore Sun. Thousands of hard-working community college students want to earn a bachelor’s degree, but never make it.
Cost is the first barrier: On average, students spend $2,500 a year for community college tuition, $7,000 average for public universities and$26,000 for private institutions.
In addition, four-year colleges and universities may reject transfer students’ credits arbitrarily, schedule classes at difficult times for working students and fail to “provide enough parking spaces for people rushing from work to class.”
Traditional public colleges and universities must work with community colleges to create degree pathways, Aldridge writes.
First, community college students need more than courses. They need a plan, worked out when they start, that identifies the courses they must take to qualify to transfer to a four-year institution. These plans may include credit for on-the job learning. They may include credit for more affordable courses taken elsewhere.
Second, community college students need help paying tuition when they transfer to four-year institutions. Any student who maintains an average above 3.0 should qualify for a scholarship. Almost all scholarship students go on to earn a four-year degree. Perhaps companies whose employees are working for a four-year degree will contribute.
Third, many students need the flexibility of online courses if they are going to graduate while working. Yes, customary face-to-face classes are valuable to the university experience. But universities need to mix and match a variety of learning approaches so students can pick the ones that work best for them.
UMUC uses a mix of online and classroom-based instruction to educate more than 90,000 adults worldwide. Nearly all students are employed; half are raising children.