Driving Change in Higher Education.

Special programs and new types of support are helping adult learners

special-programs-adultsNon-traditional students benefit from non-traditional class times.

By Brayden Mann

Student Senator 

Anoka Ramsey Community College-Coon Rapids

During last fall’s Student Leadership Summit, Kelly Charpentier-Berg, President of Anoka-Ramsey Community College-Coon Rapids (ARCC) student government, presented a motion to change the threshold for receiving a child-care grants from fifteen credits a semester to twelve in the MSCSA platform document. The motion easily passed. This represents one significant thing: non-traditional and student parents represent a large portion of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) student body.

At such a critical time for the MnSCU system and the Minnesota economy, the programs and benefits for non-traditional students need to be both spotlighted, utilized, and if need be, improved. There are many benefits offered at various colleges within the system, but many of these benefits could be implemented to more schools across the state. One of the most fascinating is Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College’s weekend courses. The program allows students to receive a degree through just weekend courses. This offering is crucial for the many people who work weekdays and it proves another flexible learning option for non-traditional students and students with families. Additionally, the college offers a children’s education program, which is not unique in the MnSCU system, but certainly not universal.

Another option for non-traditional students is the Alliss Education Foundation Grant which allows adults to take a college credit course for free at one of Minnesota’s community colleges. The grant covers one course (up to five credits). The cost of books is included in the award, but other restrictions and fees may apply. 

Special programs and grants aren’t the only thing that adult learners need. Thomas Berg, Vice President of ARCC - Coon Rapids, notes that moral support is a crucial factor. “The peer connection must be there, and it must have a method,” says Berg. At ARCC, Berg has seen success coming from programs like “Student to Student,” in which student peers guide newcomers around, checking up on their progress weekly and helping new students succeed. He also noted the diversity in both population and demand from each individual college: “Yes, there are some general principles that need to be established within [MnSCU], but it needs to be tailored to the unique personality of each campus.” In the example of one “Student to Student” group, only one of the seven students did not come back—for reasons outside of academics. The other six left were able to establish a strong start to their higher education because of the program.

It is with the flexibility of programs, based on personality types and what reaches students the best. It is the flexibility exhibited at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and their weekend program, it’s the peer support exhibited by “Student to Student” that ultimately represents what can make non-traditional and parent learners successful within the MnSCU system. Programs such as these are invaluable to this type of student, and the students’ successes are essential for the future of the system and the state of Minnesota.

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