In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
Finishing What They Started
How can colleges reach adults with some credit, but no degree?
This post is a shameless attempt to learn from others’ experiences.
Community colleges have long had multiple markets. One of those is adults who have some college experience, and an accumulation of credits, but no degree. Frequently these are folks who had some sort of major personal-life change in the course of college, and had to walk away. Years later, the decision to walk away acts as a sort of limit on earning power, as well as a nagging sense of something missing. (Anecdotally, new parenthood is a frequent cause.)
The appeal of converting a collection of credits into a degree is twofold. It offers an employable and transferable credential, and it offers the satisfaction of having something to show for the experience.
This group should be a natural, especially in the era of online courses. Offer the chance to parlay the collection of scattered credits into a degree at low cost, when the kids are in bed, and I could imagine plenty of people seeing real appeal in that. As it happens, our online student demographics skew older and (even) more female than our on-campus demographics, which is consistent with the idea of Moms coming back to finish. (For reasons I still don’t understand, men over 25 are far less likely to come back than women over 25. But that’s another post.)
Almost by definition, though, potential degree-completers are a tough group to reach. They’re often swamped by the stuff of daily life, and characteristically have little time to devote to a college search.
I’m hoping that someone out there has found a consistently effective way to reach this group, and has perhaps learned some real-world lessons about what they would/should have done from the outset, had they known then what they know now. Based on actual experience, is there any advice you’d offer? Alternately, for people who have been the returning adult student, is there something you wish your college had done differently?
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