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Working With Adult Learners – Part I

October 6, 2014

In the world of higher education, traditional college students are defined as first-time, full-time students who live on campus, are right out of high school and depend on their parents for financial support. Only 29% of American college students fit this definition, whereas 71% are adult learners, commuters, financially independent and/or part-time students . Non-traditional college students are the majority of college students. Based on this, it’s probably time for us to redefine what a traditional college student is and how we provide services for all who walk through our doors.


(Source: ACE – Higher Education Today blog – Data source: U.S. Department of Education, via WSJ Real Time Economics blog)

Helping adult learners means understanding that they have more responsibilities than just attending class and doing homework. They may fit one or more of the following:

• Full-time employees
• Head of the household
• Parent
• Single parent
• Primary caregiver for a family member
• Homeless/living in a shelter
• Commuter (car/bus/train/etc.)
• Out of school for years

Alone, any of what’s listed above can be a lot to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but adding college to the list increases the difficulty. Without policies for adult learners, we risk failing on our obligation to help the students who come to us for education. We risk lower retention rates, lower graduation rates and increasing student debt and default rates.

Here’s a few initiatives colleges can implement to help adult learners get into school, find the support they need and ensure they graduate:

1- Make the admissions process simpler

This does not mean lower your standards. This means put customer service at the forefront of everything you do. Simplify your paperwork to allow students to fill out less and still give you everything you need to evaluate them as a student and stay compliant. One form with multiple purposes is better than seven forms with singular purposes. This cuts down on the amount of times they have to give their name, address and SSN, and also makes their files (paper or digital) less cumbersome.

2- Be flexible

With a diverse population like adult learners, it’s hard to get them all in one place at one time. Offering flexible class options (mix of day, evening, weekend and even online) allows students to not only plan their classes around their work and family obligations, but may also help them to graduate on time. Flexibility goes beyond classes, administrative offices need to be open longer (utilizing swing shifts to cover the hours with current staffing) and even open on weekends. Admissions, learning centers, student affairs, career services, and financial aid are just a few of the offices that should be available at non-traditional times to help. Developing a culture of flexibility will show your students that you care and want them to succeed.

3- Help them finish faster

Immediate decision days and more streamlined paperwork helps them get accepted faster, but accelerated programs that allow students to finish degrees in less time than other colleges are a big deal to adult learners. This helps them possibly find their way into their dream career quicker, earn a raise or promotion faster, free up time to spend with their families and help them achieve some economic stability.

These items do take a shift in culture and ideology, a desire to break from what colleges have “traditionally” done, but will go a long way in making your campus adult learner-friendly. Even some small steps will go a long way in welcoming, maintaining and graduating adult students. With “non-traditional” students accounting for 84% of students on campuses across the US, colleges can ill afford to ignore this population.
Founded in 1964, Metropolitan College of New York has a long history of serving adult learners. MCNY offers accelerated associates, bachelors and masters degrees with flexible class options geared towards student who work full-time and have responsibilities beyond that of traditional college students. Offering degrees in business, education, emergency management, healthcare systems, human services, liberal arts and public affairs administration, our programs offer practical work experience that helps students gain valuable experience in their chosen fields which puts them in position to instantly make an impact for their employers. If you’d like more information about MCNY and the degrees offered, visit or call 1-800-33-THINK.

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Posted by Stephen Ostendorff in Admissions, Students. Post a Comment »

Stephen is the Director of Admissions at Metropolitan College of New York and has been immersed in higher education and enrollment marketing since 2000. Having served in admissions, student affairs, residence life and as a faculty member, he takes a holistic, integrated approach to helping students achieve their academic goals. Follow him on Twitter - @Ostendorff

Year-round Pell Grants Are A Lifeline

March 8, 2011

By Daniel de Vise

Here is a guest post from Vinton Thompson, President of the Metropolitan College of New York.

The House majority has voted for large cuts in Pell Grant support for low-income college students. These cuts would be disastrous for many students attending urban institutions and should be opposed. But lost in the discussion of these draconian cuts for all recipients of maximum Pell support is another Pell cut proposal that would target some of our nation’s most deserving students.

President Obama’s administration proposes to end year-round Pell Grants, which support students who go to school all year. This program, only a year and a half old, has given a lifeline to hardworking, non-traditional adult students. It supports their efforts to earn a life-changing B.A. faster and more efficiently than is possible in the traditional two-semester academic year that evolved in another era to serve young residential students.

In academic year 2009-2010, 666 students at Metropolitan College of New York, a small, nonprofit urban commuter institution in Manhattan, received Pell Grants. One hundred fourteen of these students relied on year-round Pell Grants. One is Khassaundra Whitley, who presently works as a teacher’s aide. She began her studies in Summer Semester 2010, planning to become a school teacher or social worker. To meet the requirements for a position that is opening at her current workplace, she needs to obtain her bachelor’s degree within the next year and a half. MCNY’s year-round, three full-semester academic calendar offers her the opportunity to accomplish this goal. But to complete her bachelor’s degree on this tight schedule she is relying on year-round Pell. Without it she will not be able to meet her goal on deadline.

Or take the case of Sabrina Soto, another student who first enrolled in Summer Semester 2010. She has two children, attends school full-time and works in a mental health facility. She needs her bachelor’s degree to qualify for promotion to supervisor. Thanks to year-round Pell, the New York State Tuition Assistance Program and some transfer credits, she has already completed her associate’s degree and is hard at work on her bachelor’s degree. Year-round Pell will make it possible for her to attend during Summer Semester 2011. Sabrina believes that being able to earn her degree quickly and without interruption is important to her success.

If year-round Pell comes to an end, dedicated students like Khassaundra and Sabrina will have to slow down their educations or go deeper into debt. In the first case, students’ dreams and higher-order contributions to the economy will be postponed (a postponement that may go on indefinitely if interruptions lead to loss of momentum and dropping out of school). In the second case, greater debt leads to greater risk of loan default. Neither outcome is in the students’ or the nation’s interest.

The administration contends that year-round Pell has not accelerated completion of bachelor’s degrees. No data has been offered to support this position. It is unlikely that only 18 months of experience would make it possible to do a thoughtful evaluation of this program, given that it takes a minimum of 16 months to earn a two-year associate degree going year-round. The administration also contends that the program has proved unexpectedly popular, an odd argument for discontinuation. Instead, the strong demand indicates that year-round Pell grants have met a real need in the target low-income student population.

Mr. Obama has made increasing college graduation rates a national priority. Rescinding year-round Pell grants would undercut this effort. Why target a group of students who are especially diligent and support-worthy to bear a disproportionate impact of national budget cuts? Surely there are better alternatives to share the inevitable pain.

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Posted by in About Applying, Admissions, Paying for School, Students. 1 Comment »

MCNY Student Satisfaction Continues to Improve

June 23, 2009

MCNY has always been interested in serving its students well. That is why the College has conducted student satisfaction studies during the past several years using the nationally-recognized Noel-Levitz Adult Student Priorities Study (ASPS). In 2008, student perceptions continued to improve as the College received an Overall Satisfaction rating of 5.39 out of a possible 7.00.

“The trend of consistently improving student satisfaction scores is testament to the effort faculty, staff and administration have invested in enhancing the total learning environment at the College,” said MCNY president Vinton Thompson.

Overall student satisfaction with MCNY experience.

The improvement in Overall Satisfaction was driven primarily by better scores in Academic Advising and Service Excellence, as well as increased levels of satisfaction in Admissions and Financial Aid, Campus Climate, and Registration Effectiveness.

MCNY uses correlation analysis to identify areas to prioritize for improvement as part of its strategic plan. Students indicate that Quality Teaching and the Campus Climate are highly related to Overall Satisfaction.

Key Study Areas Correlated with Overall Satisfaction

  1. Instructional Effectiveness
  2. Campus Climate
  3. Service Excellence
  4. Academic Advising

MCNY’s faculty and administration will use the ASPS results, and other student outcomes measurements, to make targeted improvements in a wide variety of areas as part of the College’s 2009-2014 Strategic Plan.

Look for future communication on the College’s 2009-2014 Strategic Planning efforts and other Student Outcome Measurements and Assessments in this area of the MCNY website.

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Posted by Ed Gillen in Students. Comments Off

Ed Gillen was the Director of Institutional Research and Assessment at Metropolitan College of New York.


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