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Supplement to “Kentucky Living 2010 College Guide”

Some 11,000 Kentuckians have earned 90 or more college credit hours but never completed their degrees. That means lower wages and fewer opportunities for those individuals as well as fewer dollars in state coffers. Others have not completed high school or have never attempted post-secondary education.

Fortunately, returning to school as an adult has never been easier as more colleges and universities are luring back adults with degree programs designed especially for them, and other schools are popping up exclusively for adults.

Campbellsville University calls their program ACCEL (Adult College Choice for Evening Learners). At Asbury College in Wilmore, it is ACHIEVE. Other colleges use different acronyms to denote similar programs, including TAP (Thomas Moore College Accelerated Program) at Thomas More College, and PACE (Providing Adults a College Experience) at the University of the Cumberlands. Kentucky Wesleyan College has the Vantage master of business administration degree.

At Bellarmine University, nearly all of their graduate programs are geared for adults, including master’s degrees in business administration, teaching, education, nursing, spirituality, laboratory administration, and applied information technology, as well as an advanced accounting certificate. The school also offers accelerated degrees for students who already hold an undergraduate degree but want a new degree to change careers. These include accelerated nursing and bachelor of health sciences degrees.

And while many of these programs have been started in the last decade, some have been around for a while.

The weekend college at Brescia University started back in 1981, and now has a rapidly growing online program as well. Midway has also been a leader in this field, setting up their program more than 10 years ago. Today, they partner with KCTCS (Kentucky Community and Technical College System) in 14 locations across the state and one site in West Virginia to offer an array of programs, and now also have Midway College Online.

Adults are also the focus for the Advantage Adult Program at Mid-Continent University, which has nearly 40 sites in Kentucky and southern Illinois, and allows adults to earn a bachelor’s degree in just 18 months. The program at Union College London Center allows those with an associate degree or 60 hours of college credit to complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration or psychology within two years.

The London Center also offers a master’s degree in clinical psychology. All classes are offered in the evening or online to make earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree more accessible for nontraditional and adult students.

“Our institutions are there to meet needs,” says Gary Cox, president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities, “and as needs change many of them adapt. Independent colleges have to be more responsive to the market because we are not publicly supported.”

Sometimes that takes teamwork. Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia partners with 12 KCTCS schools to provide a master’s of education in counseling and human development and a bachelor’s in human services. Credits students earned for their associate’s degree at the community and technical schools transfer as a block toward their work on the bachelor’s degree at Lindsey Wilson.

To make it more convenient for the students, classes are held on Friday evenings and Saturdays and are conducted at the various KCTCS campuses. Teachers go to the students rather than vice versa.

In fact, convenience is the central mantra, particularly at schools whose focus is nontraditional students, such as Strayer University, National College, and the University of Phoenix, as well as at schools with a significant investment in adult education such as Indiana Wesleyan University.

At these schools, students usually register only once rather than each semester. The fees cover everything, including books and supplies, which are typically delivered to the students’ home or classroom. No more bookstore lines. At Indiana Wesleyan, MBA students even receive a laptop computer loaded with the appropriate software, which is theirs to use for the duration of the program.

The basic elements of these programs are similar at most schools, many following a medical school model. Students are grouped into cohorts, a small group of students who progress through an identical program together. They take one class at a time, and each class lasts approximately five to seven weeks.

Students also know what is coming. At the beginning, they receive a schedule of classes and breaks for the entire length of the program. Class meets one night a week, the same night throughout the program. On the first day of class, students receive a detailed syllabus with homework assignments. There are few, if any, memory exams. Most tests are open book. Learning is measured in class participation and assignments along the way as much as in tests.

Speed is also important. The programs are accelerated, with most lasting somewhere between 18 and 28 months.

Kentucky has kicked off a campaign called Project Graduate aimed at those who have left school with more than 90 credit hours of college. Those qualifying are eligible for special incentives such as free application, priority enrollment, tuition assistance, and individual advising.

Why bother? According to, during a lifetime, a person with a bachelor’s degree earns an average of $1 million more than a high school graduate. And according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau from 2008, Kentuckians with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $40,925 while high school graduates earned $25,288.

For more information on Project Graduate, go online to, click on “Back to College” or under the Adults tab, choose “Project Graduate.”

To read the Kentucky Living February 2010 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to Kentucky Living 2010 College Guide.

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