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Metro campuses offer non-traditional students range of options

Fresh out of high school, going to college can be an exciting time. A taste of freedom. Exposure to new ideas. But along the way, life happens, and not everyone has the opportunity to go straight through to earn a degree. Marriage, job, children and bills may begin to define life. Having a better often means getting that coveted college degree.

Adults who go back to school, known as “non-traditional” students, have become a common sight on metro college campus. As more adults go back to school to earn their degree, or to improve skills in things like computer science or business-related classes, more colleges are catering to them, offering classes around traditional work schedules.

Job, family — and a degree

Belhaven College in Jackson is a pioneer in the state when it comes to offering programs for non-traditional students. “Belhaven was the first in the state to have an adult program,” said Donna Bryant, who handles public relations for the college. “Currently, we have 650 students enrolled in our ‘Adult Aspire’ degree program.”

Adult Aspire is dedicated to making the goal of obtaining a college degree a reality to adult students who also have responsibilities of jobs and families. The program offers an adult-friendly format, project teams and convenient scheduling so that adults can obtain their college education while still earning a living. Classes meet once a week for four hours, and team meetings are held periodically, as well.

“We offer several degree programs, including associate of arts, bachelor of arts in social services, bachelor of business administration, bachelor of science in management, bachelor of health administration, master of business administration and a master of science in management,” said Byrant. “The bachelor of business administration is the most popular degree.”

According to Bryant, the program is geared to working adults ages 21 and up. “Belhaven College’s adult student body are a diverse group of individuals. We really don’t have a ‘typical’ student. We look at each student’s needs and desires when serving them. We have students beginning their college education after working and raising families, many of our students are continuing degrees that were left unfinished when life’s demands took them away from their college aspirations. Our master degree students are pursuing advanced degrees for both career advancement and personnel fulfillment.”

Getting on a faster track

Hinds Community College offers numerous “FastTrack” scheduling options make Hinds accessible for both traditional students and more nontraditional adult students who can find the path that best meets their needs. FastTrack classes offer the same content as “traditional” classes, but are offered in an accelerated or non-traditional format so they can be completed in a shorter or more convenient time frame. Course outcomes and materials covered are the same as “traditional” classes.

Jay Allen, dean of enrollment services for Hinds, said that without a doubt, there are more non-traditional students on college campuses than ever before. “When I was a student at Hinds many years ago, I had a grandmother in my class, which was very unusual. Now, that’s a very common sight.” Shane Brown is an adult recruiter for Hinds. “Over 80% of our students are aged 19 and up, with the average age of our students in their upper 20s.”

FastTrack options include “Hybrid” classes, which combine face-to-face instruction with online instruction. Two eight-week terms are offered during each fall and spring semester, and mini-terms, even shorter and more intense classes over a two-week or less period of time, are offered between semesters in December and May. Weekend classes are offered at the Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center.

Distance learning options

Distance learning courses, particularly those provided online, are becoming a popular choice for many students. For working people, adults with children at home and those whose schedules make it difficult to attend class on campus, distance learning can be a great choice.

Holmes Community College is a member of the Mississippi Virtual Community College (MSVCC), which provides Internet-based courses statewide. In this system, a student may register through Holmes and take any course offered statewide through the MSVCC, as long as the course appears in the course description section of the Holmes catalog. In this way, working people, or people with time constraints can still access higher learning.

Contact MBJ contributing writer S.J. Anderson at andersonwrites@yahoo.com .

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