Frustration often builds when life doesn’t go according to plan, such as when the pathway to a bachelor’s degree is interrupted. Whether it’s starting a new family, or caring for an elderly family member, sometimes priorities force an undergraduate student to put their academic goals on hold.
In fact, about 36 million adults nationally have some college-level credit, but have been unable to finish their degrees due to handling one of life’s unexpected events.
The Adult Degree Completion Program
Western Colorado University is helping those who have put their studies on hold with a new program. Through Western’s first fully online undergraduate adult degree completion program, adults can earn their bachelor’s degree in Business Communications, while gaining valuable knowledge they can apply in their current careers
Intended for working individuals with some college credit but no four-year degree, this is the first in a series of online majors to be offered to adult learners who aspire to complete their bachelor’s degree, but are unable to return to the in-person, on-campus setting. The advantage of this adult degree completion program is that it is designed for maximum flexibility with self-paced, online learning at an affordable price. Special emphasis will be placed on maximizing the value of prior earned college credit at Western, or any other accredited institution in the country.
Professor of Communication Arts and Program Director Terry Schliesman called the new initiative an “idea that unlocks doors for citizens” while fortifying the success of a traditional, on-campus university, which will always be Western’s main mission.
“This course set is asynchronous, meaning students can participate in classes as they fit them into their busy lives,” Schliesman said. “Faculty will touch base with the class as needed to provide them the opportunity to succeed.”
Students in the new 48-credit Business Communication major will gain experience and knowledge in marketing, finance, conflict management, public relations, technical writing, social media design, and more. And for those looking for more expertise, the program offers a 12-credit Digital Marketing Specialization. Teachers for these courses often come from the same qualified pool of faculty who instruct on campus.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
“Every citizen deserves the chance to complete a four-year degree and take advantage of life’s opportunities,” says Bill Niemi, Ph. D. and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Western. “This new online Business Communication major increases Western’s ability to serve Coloradans by providing a valuable curriculum in a more flexible, affordable format.”
The program was launched in early May, following an examination of student need and resources and a 15-month process of curriculum design and setup. The self-funded program goes beyond simply giving adult learners the credentials and skill sets they need for career advancement.
“Many of these courses—such as BUAD 335, Marketing Communications or COM 375, Social Media Skills—simply make life easier in the work force and that’s why many people go back to college and participate in adult learning,” Schliesman said. “There are practical projects which are work-based, and can be converted into credit in certain classes.”
Additionally, gaining a four-year degree bolsters confidence and average earnings, he said. Americans with bachelor’s degrees, on average, make nearly $20,000 more annually than those holding associate degrees according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When Going Back to School Makes Sense
There are certain periods of time when going back to school makes sense, Schliesman continued. For example, many choose to return to the classroom within five years of putting college on hold. Others may decide to do it later in life, say in the mid- to late-30s, when finances are established, but career advancement stagnates.
Tuition rates are based on residency, with in-state tuition and fees averaging $386/credit for Colorado’s College Opportunity Fund (COF) qualified residents. COF was created by state lawmakers and provides a stipend to eligible undergraduate students. The stipend pays a portion of total in-state tuition when a student attends a participating college, and is set by the General Assembly each year.
Registration for Business Communications opened in mid-May and courses start in late August 2021.
Learn more about Western’s Adult Degree Completion program and Business Communication major.
Author Credit: Chris Rourke
Photo Credit: Katie Lyons