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Division of Continuing Education Ensures No Adult Left Behind


This article was published in The Statesman Journal on August 26, 2008.

If the words "college student" bring to mind a 20-year-old walking from residence hall to a classroom or football game, it's time to reboot.

The fastest-growing population of college students is older than 25, part time and not living on campus. The adult college student has become the new norm. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 43 percent of all undergraduates are 24 and older, and the majority of master's level students are enrolled part time.

Adults earning a bachelor's degree is not a new phenomenon. Funded by the GI Bill after World War II, more than 2 million veterans entered colleges and universities. Today, adults begin or return to college often motivated by a "trigger" such as being passed over for a promotion because of lack of education, a desire to retool for a new career or a change in their personal or family life. Many adult students report that they are equally motivated by a desire to continue personal growth as by career enhancement.

Programs specifically designed for adults must take into account the characteristics of the adult student. Most adult students are employed at least part and often full time. Many have families, are single parents and have commitments to their church or community they want to continue. These full schedules demand a flexible program that provides many opportunities for student success.

Linfield College offers bachelor's degrees and certificate programs specifically for adults.

The Division of Continuing Education was established in 1975 and includes seven majors and four certificates: accounting, arts and humanities, business information systems, international business, management, social and behavioral sciences, and an RN to BSN for registered nurses.

One of the most exciting changes in adult and distance education is the increased availability of online education. Five of DCE's majors can be completed entirely online or with intermittent classroom attendance. This allows students access to course materials and interaction with faculty members and other students asynchronously 24/7.

There are great advantages for the place- or time-bound student. Courses are designed so that you can log in to your classroom when you have the time during the day - or night. You don't have to arrange child care to attend class. There's no commuting, and with $4-per-gallon gas, that's a time and money saver. Since you can access the course from anywhere, you can

travel during the semester.

You can spend as much time as you need on reading, writing and assimilating the material. Students who are hesitant to speak or ask questions in a traditional classroom often are much more comfortable interacting with the faculty member and other students online.

You can ask the faculty member as many questions as you need to in private e-mails with no fear of being embarrassed or slowing down the class. Discussions are often more extensive because there isn't a time limit on each class session.

I've taught online for years and have come to appreciate many things about online courses. I find that students' discussions are often more thoughtful because they take the time to think through questions and carefully compose their comments.

Students tend to be more forthcoming online because of its relative anonymity. I have access to every resource on the Internet, so I can send my students to articles, blogs, film clips, photographs, drawings, podcasts, animation, slide shows, original documents, and art on billions of Web pages.

This enriches students' experiences far beyond a traditional classroom and allows them to view the images again and again.

Online education offers wonderful opportunities for adult students who don't require choosing between career and a earning a bachelor's degree.

Contact Linfield's Enrollment Specialist to help you get started.

Written by Kathleen A. Bemis

Kathleen A. Bemis is the dean of the Division of Continuing Education at Linfield College.