Reaching new heights

Adults with full-time jobs and full-time
family lives may be hesitant to return
to school to achieve a master’s or any other higher education degree, but the benefits for both them and their employers are
too numerous to ignore.

Many schools specialize in helping adults
make a smooth transition back to academia, says Debi Milne, enrollment counselor
at the Cincinnati campus of Mount Vernon
Nazarene University. And earning a higher
degree increases the employee’s chances
for advancement with a current employer
or even a position with a new employer.

Smart Business spoke with Milne about
the benefits employees, their community
and their employers can reap from them
pursuing higher education.

What are the biggest adjustments adults
have to make when going back to school?

As an enrollment counselor, I see
prospective students every day who are
apprehensive of returning to the classroom. As a graduate student myself,
returning after a long absence from the
classroom, I was very nervous about
completing my master’s degree at this
point in my life. There was a 20-year span
between graduating with my bachelor’s
degree in business administration in 1986
and returning to earn my master of science in management in 2006. By the time
I finished my first course, however, it felt
very natural. The design of the program
using a ‘cohort’ model helps to facilitate
this. And, the first course in my program
was designed specifically for students
returning to the classroom after an
absence. The adjustment is made much
easier by the fact that you attend only
one course at a time, albeit at an accelerated pace. I’m considered a full-time student since I complete 12 hours per
semester, and I find this single-minded
focus on one class at a time to be very
beneficial to me.

How can one balance work with school?

As an enrollment counselor, the comment I hear most often is how much students appreciate a one-night-per-week format. This frees up a second class night per
week that’s prevalent in so many other programs. It also allows the family to better
adjust to the student’s absence from home
in the evening. In my family, the night I
have class is when my husband and son
have a special dinner together, play sports,
do homework, etc. Moreover, I purposely
schedule time during the week to complete
homework and participate in family activities. Since my husband is also attending
MVNU one night per week, planning ahead
has worked well for us. It’s also a tremendous benefit that class projects can be
specifically tailored for projects students
may have at work. It’s like double dipping:
You get paid for doing homework and get a
grade for work projects.

Can a school provide counseling to a new
adult student regarding how to get organized
and effectively manage a job with classes?

Many universities offer an introductory
class to help students adapt to requirements and expectations and to gain organizational skills to help them succeed.
Student advisers also provide assistance in
helping students make the necessary
adjustments. MVNU’s business programs
include a course in personal development.
Topics include: personal goal development, adult learning methodology, temperament type analysis, adult study skills,
time management, library research, literature review, personal assessment and other
subjects relevant to goal achievement in an
academic environment.

What kind of flexibility can an adult student
expect with class schedules?

Programs that are designed with working
adults in mind usually feature courses in
the evenings and on weekends and sometimes online. All of MVNU courses offered
at the Cincinnati campus meet the same
night once per week from 6 to 10 p.m.
From the very first night, students are registered for all courses in their program and
given a schedule documenting every week
that each course meets and all holiday
breaks. Students know what weeks they’re
in class or on breaks for the entire length of
their program, typically 20 to 22 months.
This allows them to schedule vacations
when it would have the least impact on
their class attendance.

How do you convince adults that pursuing a
higher education degree is worthwhile?

According to ‘The Value of a College
Degree’ by Kathleen Porter, the long-term
benefits of a college education for an individual and one’s community far outweigh
the costs. For example, a bachelor’s degree
holder earns about $2.1 million during
one’s lifetime as compared to only $1.2 million for a high school graduate. Besides the
economic benefit, there’s also a correlation
between higher education and cultural and
family values. In addition, the community
experiences all the benefits of its members
having more disposable income, increased
tax revenues and greater productivity
among workers. Clearly, earning a degree
increases the employee’s chances for
advancement with a current employer or
even a position with a new employer.
Higher education is a win-win situation.

DEBI MILNE is an enrollment counselor at the Cincinnati campus of Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Reach her at (877)
431-9610 x6408 or [email protected].