The University System of Georgia is increasing emphasis on college completion by adult learners with entities such as the Adult Learning Consortium (ALC) and initiatives such as Complete College Georgia (CCG). The University of North Georgia has multiple departments that strive to provide adults with resources to ensure an environment conducive to successful education. Chaudron Gille, associate vice president for University Affairs & Academic Services, talks about these departments and the methods UNG is using to bring in and help adult learners.
What are some common characteristics of adult learners?
Adult learners typically are very focused and motivated to succeed in their studies. They have made the decision to come back to school with a specific goal in mind. They bring a wealth of knowledge from their work and world experiences to the classroom. They also tend to be more disciplined than many traditional aged college students because they are often balancing the competing demands of work, school and family responsibilities. However, they may be insecure about their abilities as a student because they feel that their study skills are rusty. Math is daunting for many of them because they have been out of school for so long.
Some of the other challenges facing adult learners who are returning to school are the availability of courses when they need them and the cost of education.
Why does CCG place such an emphasis on this segment of the student population?
According to the Georgetown University Center on Education in the Workforce, by 2018 two-thirds of U.S. jobs will require some level of postsecondary education. Yet according to the 2010 American Community Survey, in the state of Georgia, only 36.1 percent of the population of ages 25-64 has an associate degree or higher. Approximately 21 percent of the population in this age range has some college but no degree. Addressing this significant gap in education level and the workforce demands is in the best interest of the individual students and is also critical for the economy of the state.
The main goal in Complete College America is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. It is natural for us at the University of North Georgia to focus on this population as well because in fall 2012, adult learners made up 20 percent of our overall student body across all campuses. Adult learners comprised 40 percent of those students going to school part-time, and 11 percent of our full-time students.
How does UNG’s Complete College Georgia plan help address these issues?
In order to help students get the courses when they need them, the UNG CCG plan is expanding access to the core curriculum online by becoming an eCore affiliate. This will make the entire core available in an online format. We are also creating a three-year schedule of courses for evenings and weekends so that students who are attending part-time and planning their studies around a work schedule can properly sequence their courses. There are student clubs such as Second Wind and the Veterans Student Association, workshops and resource materials, math tutoring services, and counseling services—all designed specifically for adult learners.
We also encourage adult learners to pursue credit by examination or credit for prior learning through portfolio assessment. We recognize that many of them have knowledge from their jobs or other experiences that overlap with the content of some college courses. By demonstrating this knowledge through an exam or a portfolio, they can receive credit for the course. This saves the student both time and money. Our Center for Adult Learners and the Military assists students with this process, advising them about possible credit options and connecting them with the appropriate campus resources.