College At Any Age, In Many Ways


It may have been years since you’ve been in a classroom, written a paper or taken a test, but there’s never been a better time to pick up new knowledge, new skills and a new degree or certificate.

Financial aid may be available for those looking to further their education, even if you think you don’t qualify. Flexible class schedules and online learning can make getting college credit easier. And many Indiana colleges and universities have programs specially designed for adults, career-changers and veterans.

“For many jobs, a college degree is comparable to what a high school diploma used to be in terms of minimum qualifications. Many workers are realizing this and coming back to school as adults,” says Judy Apple-VanAlstine, dean of the School for Adult Learning at the University of Indianapolis.

While younger college students might be concerned with what’s included in a meal plan or what the dorm rooms look like, adult students have a whole different set of criteria. Here’s what should be on the adult college-shopping list:

Tuition. Your college tuition doesn’t have to cost a fortune. At one end of the spectrum, Ivy Tech Community College tuition is just $133.15 per credit hour, while independent colleges and universities can cost nearly three times that amount. Your costs should be affordable for you and your individual situation. A low-cost education is possible. Or, you might choose a higher-cost option that fits your needs in other ways, such as location, quality of program or time required to complete. Ask: What’s the total cost for my degree? What will be the payoff in terms of career opportunity? Will I qualify for a better-paying job? Are there ways to reduce my costs with scholarships and other financial aid or by transferring credits or receiving credit for work experience?

Schedules. Whether you choose an evening, weekend, online or traditional daytime program, you need to choose a program that will allow you to complete your degree as quickly as possible.
Ask: How flexible is this program? Can I adjust my current schedule and lifestyle to earn my degree more quickly?

Learning styles. Make sure you understand the demands of the degree program. For example, WGU Indiana is
an online university, with no professors or classrooms in a traditional sense. Instead, mentors make sure students stay on track toward their degree, and it’s not easy: Students spend  up to 20 hours per week on their studies. It’s also a fast-paced program that you can finish quickly if you are a motivated and independent learner. Other students may need small, traditional classrooms. Be honest with yourself about your coping skills, ability to adapt to new situations and willingness to work hard.
Ask: What is my learning style and my needs? Will I do best in classes small or large, traditional or non-traditional? Am I better working at my own pace or with a group?

Support. Earning a degree is hard work and, in the end, is up to the individual to succeed or fail. But you should not go it alone. A quality college program will offer you plenty of support in terms of helpful faculty, career advising, and career placement. At the School for Adult Learning at UIndy, for example, a full-time career advisor meets with current students as well as alumni, providing lifelong advice and support.Ask: What kinds of support services are included for the tuition cost? What is the graduation or success rate? How will the college or university help me reach my goals?

Know the Facts

  • About 8 million college students in the U.S. (approximately 40 percent of the total college student population) are 25 or older, according to the National Center
    for Education Statistics.
  • Half of all Hoosier students who earn a bachelor’s degree take five to eight years to graduate. More than three-quarters of community college students who earn an associate degree take three to six years to graduate.
  • An additional year of college can cost a Hoosier student at least $50,000 in extra tuition, lost wages and related costs. Taking longer to complete not only means that students pay more, but it also decreases the chances that they graduate at all.
  • Full-time student success rates are significantly higher than part-time student success rates. At four-year colleges, only 27.6 percent of part-time students complete a degree in eight years, compared to 70.5 percent of full-time students.  (Indiana Commission for Higher Education)


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