Adult Degree Programs and Community Building


If you’re a working adult reading this article, chances are that you have considered returning to school. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 48% of all adults over the age of 40 participated in degree programs or classes in 1999, and the trend continues today. Nearly 50% of all college students are 25 years of age or older. Eighty percent of these students work full time while attending class.

Why are adults returning to the classroom in record numbers? Some adults are returning to school in order to gain skills or credentials that will protect their current jobs or help them find new jobs. Others are returning for personal reasons – to finish what they started. Whatever the reason, the adult student has become as much a part of the college landscape as the bell tower or backpack.

The adult returning to college brings many issues to the table. Long gone are the days when she can focus totally on her studies with little else to worry about. For most adults returning to college, this new endeavor must be balanced with work, family, and a myriad of other activities that compete for the student’s time. Institutions that offer educational programs for adult learners must offer a learning environment that is designed to meet the unique needs of the adult learner. In order to make these “non-traditional” students successful in their return to the classroom, traditional programs must become “non-traditional.”  They must reach out to adult students with new and innovative approaches rather than expecting them to conform to an environment designed for younger students with less complicated lives.

The degree programs that you will find on Belhaven University’s adults studies campuses represent such an approach. We recognize that learning takes place when adult students are challenged to link newly acquired information to their career activities. The classroom environment, weekly assignments, and project-team assignments are all designed to maximize learning in ways that are meaningful to the adult learner.

The need to attend college while not neglecting other responsibilities is an important issue for the adult considering a return to college. Students in Belhaven’s non-traditional degree programs attend class once a week instead of two or three times a week. This allows more time for family, church, work and all of those other things that require the student’s attention. The convenience of our adult degree programs is enhanced by impeccable student services and competitive tuition rates than include the costs of books

So, what does all of this have to do with my theme of community building? Having been told a few years back that “it takes a village to raise a child,” we can’t help but acknowledge, in this turbulent economy, that it takes education to build and sustain the village. Education is an integral part of any attempt to build better communities. The bottom line is that when adults can complete their college degrees, communities benefit in a number of ways. Local businesses benefit from a workforce enhanced by the knowledge and abilities of the college graduates. Local economies benefit from the increased purchasing power that a college degree brings to its recipients. Families benefit from the positive changes in quality of life that usually accompany the mother or father who now has a college degree.

Belhaven University’s adult studies campuses have been part of this type of community building since 1996. With a reach that includes Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis; Houston; Orlando; Atlanta; and Chattanooga; our graduates are impacting communities throughout the southeast and beyond. At one time, most of these people thought that they would never complete their college degrees.  As the lives of most working adults become more complicated in these uncertain times, Belhaven University remains committed to offering uncomplicated ways for adult learners to realize their dreams and contribute to the growth and well being of their communities.