Leave no motivated adult behind

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.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs
ON July 8, 2010

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I was a community college in the 80’s. I graduated with an AA, then went on to a 4 year college, and graduated with a BA. I became a science teacher, and, after earning my master’s degree in Educational Technology, have also picked up certification in Physics and Chemistry (highly qualified).

I was lucky – my husband provided financial support during most of that time. I also was fortunate to qualify for Pell grants, state grants, and a few scholarships. I also was awarded work-study.

I agree that students getting at least a 3.0 from a community college should be able to get some scholarship money – they are certainly a better bet than an untried 18 year high school graduate (but those are the ones that receive the most scholarship aid).

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