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November 03, 2010 10:00 AM Nontraditional Students at Regular Colleges

By Daniel Luzer

Many colleges are trying to attract more adults to study at their institutions.

For decades the pattern went something like this: unprepared students started college and then dropped out after a semester or two. By the time they returned to college they had other things going on in their lives (jobs, children, etc.) and often gravitated toward for-profit schools, which had programs that appealed to working adults.

Maybe that’s about to change. According to an article by Jamal Eric Watson in Diverse Issues in Higher Education:

Last month, the Lumina Foundation for Education announced a new commitment to advancing adult degree attainment by providing $14.8 million in grants over four years to organizations focused on helping 6.6 million adults with some prior college credits earn a degree.
Meanwhile, Rider University, located in central New Jersey, has launched an innovative program called Fomentamos Tu Futuro targeted toward Latino adults over age 25.

A school like Rider might eventually reach some of the demographic now attracted to schools like the University of Phoenix if Rider can imitate the characteristics that make the for-profit school so successful.

Rider, which actually began as a branch of the for-profit Bryant & Stratton College, is now looking to create programs specifically for Hispanic adults. According to the article:

College officials say Fomentamos Tu Futuro’s goal is to alleviate the obstacles that Latino adult students face in obtaining a college degree. Latino students enrolled in the program receive scholarship assistance, bilingual advisement and access to a variety of services that Rider offers to traditional students, such as career counseling and tutoring.

If schools like that can only tackle the other side of that problem, by scheduling classes at convenient times for working adults and creating rigorous online courses, this could be a promising new model.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer