Degree Surprises May Await Some Adults Going Back To School

Degree Surprises May Await Some Adults Going Back To School

Adults who are considering going back to school to finish studies theyve already started might not have to. As part of Project Win-Win, you might find that youve actually earned at least an associate degree. The Institute for Higher Education Policy and the Lumina Foundation for Education are working to award retroactive degrees as part of a three-year effort in six states, after a seven-month pilot project resulted in nearly 600 associate degrees being awarded.

Project Win-Win is to cost $1.3 million and involve 35 two- and four-year colleges and universities in Virginia, Ohio, New York, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Missouri, according to an announcement for the initiative. As part of the effort, the Institute for Higher Education Policy and the Lumina Foundation hope to come across students who only need a few academic credits to obtain an associate degree and get them back to school so that they can complete their degree program. For some of these near-associate degree individuals, going back to school might mean taking online college or university courses, even turning work and life experiences into academic credit. The pilot program pinpointed 1,600 former students who could be eligible for associate degrees, according to the announcement.

Adults who go back to school and earn degrees might expect to increase their income potential. Were pleased to be spearheading an innovative effort that could potentially award and recognize the hard academic work already performed by so many students, Institute for Higher Education Policy President Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., said in the announcement. Furthermore, Project Win-Win has the potential to make a considerable down-payment on increased degree completion goals set by state governors and the Obama Administration.

Many adults are going back to school at a time when the Obama Administration has cited a desire for the United States by 2020 to resume the top spot in terms of the number of degree holders. The higher an individuals college or university degree, the more he or she might expect to earn, Bureau of Labor Statistics information shows. Additionally, the non-profit College Board reports that more jobs are requiring post-high school education. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that, as of 2007, Canada led the world in this respect, followed by New Zealand, Japan and the United States. As part of Obamas American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus plan, the government provided more than $30 billion to make college more affordable and accessible and another $5 billion to encourage innovation and close what the White House calls the achievement gap.

Adults going back to school to finish working toward degrees have a variety of flexible programs from which to choose including programs where work and life experiences might translate to as many as 30 or more credits. For some, going back to school might mean taking courses on their home computers. With online college and university courses, students are able to schedule studies between work and family responsibilities. Many working adults who go back to school might be able to take advantage of employer tuition reimbursement benefits. The Council for Adult & Experiential Learning has also established a 401-K like program that might better enable working adults to save to go back to school. Lifelong Learning Accounts, or LiLAs, are voluntary on the part of employers, as are employer contributions to these accounts.

Adults going back to school might also find themselves eligible for scholarships and grants that many colleges and universities make available to students other than graduating high school seniors. Adults might also find scholarships, fellowships and grants available through large organizations, non-profit foundations, professional associations, community and civic groups and churches. The US Departments of Education and Labor, the College Board and websites such as fastweb and offer free scholarship searches that might produce a variety of different opportunities for which adults going back to college are eligible. The Institute for Higher Education Policy and the Lumina Foundation estimate, based on the pilot Project Win-Win program, that the effort could increase the number of associate degrees by 12 percent. Adults who live outside of the expanded projects six-state territory might pull together their own college and university transcripts to see how far toward a degree they might be.