Why adult students persist

An award-winning study of nine adult students who persisted at a Western community college finds that connecting with an instructor – not with campus activities — made the difference, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Rosemary Capps followed older students who started in remedial reading, a high-risk group, for her 2010 University of Utah dissertation.  

Now an academic developer at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the University of California at Davis, Capps said colleges need to reach adult students ”in their classrooms.”  Many don’t have time to visit an advising center.

. . . knowing students personally and validating them can make a huge difference. I also believe strongly in faculty advising. . . . Sometimes adult students don’t have time to go to an advising center—they have to rush out of class to get to some other obligation. But they might take three minutes at the end of class to talk to a faculty member they trust. “Do you have any ideas about what classes I should take next?” So I think it’s important for faculty to get familiar with general-education requirements and the major requirements in their fields, because students who feel comfortable with them are going to come to them first with those questions. 

Developmental education instructors often are adjuncts, who may be rushing from one college to another to make a living, Capps says.  

If (adjunct) instructors are going to fill that faculty-advising role, they need more support, they need more time, they need more pay, and they need more benefits. Otherwise, they really can’t; they’re already stretched very thin.

Pushing struggling students into college-level classes right away is a mistake, Capps argues. Students with weak basic skills need ”a small class with a caring teacher before they get into the harder content and higher expectations of credit courses.”