College Planning & Management

JUN 2013

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Recruit & Retain Nyack college Adult Student Challenges Retaining students through relationships. by Julie Hood I t is no secret that retaining adult students involves a particularly unique set of challenges for continuing education administrators and faculty. The pressures of working full- or part-time, caring for a family, and returning to school can become overwhelming at best for many adult students. Often this balancing act becomes too diffcult for many adult students and they are faced with the unpleasant decision to withdraw from their classes. The Division of Adult and Distance Education at Nyack College in Nyack, NY, has found that taking a relational approach toward their adult students has helped to exceed a 90 percent retention rate. accountability and support. Again, the relationship that the student, academic advisor, and primary instructor share allows a team approach to helping students create a degree completion plan that fts with the specifc needs of the student while ensuring continued enrollment. Students are offered a variety of methods to complete degree requirements including accelerated courses, online courses, CLEP and DANTES exams, as well as documenting life and work experience for college credit. Through the relationships that have developed, the student and advisor can engage in a meaningful dialogue about which class format will be most effective for the student's life/work/school balance. Applicable Learning Surrounded With Support Another important element that Nyack's Division of Adult From the moment a student is admitted into the Division of and Distance Education believes helps to retain their adult stuAdult and Distance Education, she/he is assigned an academic dents is making the classroom learning immediately applicable. advisor. This academic advisor becomes the student's main point of While students are immersed in theory and current research, contact for all questions and concerns until he or she graduates. The they are also challenged to connect this learning to their own advisor/advisee relationship personal and professional lives. The cohort-based classroom lends to individualized support Students become excited to see and encouragement. environment creates a peer-support that their learning has immeIn addition to the support diate value in the workplace system. Students hold each other and it helps to keep them motiof the academic advisor, accountable and encourage each vated to fnish. the student is placed into a cohort-based classroom. Students work on a yearother to stay the course. Fifteen to 20 students remain long applied research project, together as a group while they move through the required course where they are asked to identify an issue within an organization work. A primary instructor acts as the lead faculty member, they are connected with that could beneft from positive change. teaching several of the courses and serving as the mentor for While completing their course work, the students are simultanethe capstone research project. The instructor also develops a ously applying this learning to their research project. Through relationship with each student and works in tandem with the this process students become keenly aware of identifying, reacademic advisor to ensure that each student is meeting key searching, and offering meaningful change to the organizations milestones through their enrollment. in which they are personally involved. The cohort-based classroom environment creates a peer-support Adult students seem to respond well to the individualized care system. Students hold each other accountable and encourage each and relationships that they form in the program. Recognizing that other to stay the course. Often times the relationships that are each student enters the program with a unique set of challenges in forged among students lasts far beyond their enrollment. obtaining their degree has helped Nyack's Division of Adult and Distance Education to develop a support system that has been sucMeaningful Flexibility cessful in retaining their adult learners. CPM Flexibility in learning is an important and necessary element to any continuing education program. In the Nyack program, Julie Hood is a lecturer in Organizational Management at Nyack fexibility is offered within a framework that incorporates College in New York. She can be contacted at julie.hood@nyack.edu. 12 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / JUNE 2013 www.PLANNING 4EduCATION.COM

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