Deborah Booros, dean of lifelong learning
(The Morning Call - 10/22/09)
Twenty years ago, at the age of thirty-five, I returned to school to earn my undergraduate degree. Since then I’ve never looked back. I remember attending my first class with some uneasiness, but after just a few minutes in the room that disappeared. I knew from the start that, although we were a diverse group of individuals with distinct aspirations and abilities, everyone was there for the same reason: to continue (or to begin) an educational journey that would lead to greater fulfillment. Today I’m still in school, but this time I’m helping others along that journey as the administrator of an undergraduate degree program for non-traditional students.
The first week in November is Non-Traditional Student Appreciation Week. Colleges across America will honor this educational cohort in a variety of ways because they represent the fastest growing population in the market of higher education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54 million adults have no college degree, and 34 million have no college experience at all. Non-traditional students run the gamut of life situations: employed or unemployed, married with children or single, skilled professionals or unskilled laborers, even the military. They are baby-boomers, generation y- and x-ers, and even “WOOFs” (well-off-older folks). They return to school for different reasons, whether to reach a personal goal, to manage a life crisis, to change careers, or simply to finish what they started years ago. One thing they all have in common is their passion to learn.
Often an adult learner is apprehensive about the prospect of returning to school and overwhelmed by the thought of all it will take to earn a degree. Besides the anxiety of setting foot in a classroom for the first time since high school, the sticker price may seem rather steep. Non-traditional students also juggle multiple responsibilities of school, work, family, and something of a social life. In short, back to school for a non-traditional student is an experience both exciting and demanding, uplifting and stressful. Nevertheless, older students thrive on their independence and capitalize on their goal-oriented motivation. A remark from one adult learner sums up the experience: “The good news is that you’re not alone. The bad news? You’re not alone!”
Support from the community makes it all manageable and is critical to providing students with a competitive edge in the ever-changing global business world. Fortunately, adult learners have numerous options in the Lehigh Valley. Lehigh and Northampton counties are home to two excellent community colleges that offer a variety of training, certificate, and degree programs.
Institutions in the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges and Schools (LVAIC) share hundreds of years of experience in serving adult learners. Cedar Crest College’s Center for Lifelong learning, Muhlenberg’s Wescoe School, and the ACCESS program at DeSales University offer flexible programs specifically designed to accommodate the particular needs of full- and part-time non-traditional learners. These multi-faceted programs open the doors to a vast world of on-site, distance learning, evening, weekend, and day options, while also providing non-credit classes that educate thousands of non-traditional learners. In doing so, they serve the citizenship of our entire community well.
Members of the local community work tirelessly to support adult education by serving on advisory committees, speaking at special events, or teaching in the academic programs. The valley is blessed with professionals who understand the world of non-traditional education. They devote their energies to reducing fears and concerns and connecting each student's life experience and future plans into the course material. Students work in teams to develop business plans, design websites, and manage events, often to the benefit of local, non-profit organizations. These rich experiences help adult learners become even more effective community advocates, enthusiasts, and activists.
Thus, our continued support of non-traditional education remains beneficial to the vibrant professional and community life of our region. Celebrating Non-Traditional Student Appreciation Week allows us all the chance to recognize the achievements and encourage the dreams of adults working toward a higher education.
Deborah Booros, M.P.A.,
is dean of lifelong learning at DeSales University.
Press Release: Valley is rich in opportunities for nontraditional students, a growing area for higher education | Posted on: 10/22/2009
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu