Enhancing your skill set Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2007

It’s a competitive world out there, and everyone’s looking for an edge on someone else in the employment pool. Or, perhaps, people just want to sharpen the skills they already have.

If you fall into this category of people who want to pursue higher education opportunities and advance their professional standings, you’re in luck.

Opportunities abound today, says John Washatka, director of Academic Services for Adult and Graduate Studies at Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) in Mount Vernon, Ohio, with a Cincinnati campus location.

Whether it’s business or other professional courses, flexibility in scheduling and a variety of courses is in no short supply.

Smart Business asked Washatka about what opportunities exist for those looking to advance their professional education.

What are some of the more popular higher education programs adults are choosing these days?

Higher education programs among adults tend to be professional programs. Popular programs these days include business management and leadership, nursing and education. Among adult and graduate programs offered at MVNU, we have found the Bachelor of Business Administration and the Master of Arts in Education to be very popular.

Are more adults pursuing higher education today than in the past?

The number of adults returning or going to college later in life is increasing. There are two reasons I can see. First, employers are recognizing the need for their employees to be educated. If you think that society, as a whole, is getting more complex, then problems arising out of that sort of culture are more complex, too.

Solutions for those problems tend to be more complex as well.

A college education is an opportunity for students to learn, among other things, analytical and critical-thinking skills, communication skills and problem-solving skills. Any employer would love to see those skills in an employee.

The second reason is the increasing availability and opportunity for adults to go to school. More and more colleges are recognizing adults as a constituency they can reach while maintaining their educational mission. As a result, colleges are building programs that recognize the specific needs and characteristics of adult learners, making it possible for adults to go to school. Related to that is technology, including computers and the Internet, that helps assist in the delivery of those programs.

What kind of options do adults have as far as courses and schedules?

I want to say the sky’s the limit in terms of options adults have. It depends on two factors, though. The first factor is related to the college’s ability to be entrepreneurial in responding to adult learner needs. How far outside the traditional college box are colleges willing to go? A big concern related to that is the ability of the institution offering programs to maintain academic integrity. Colleges accredited by regional associations and agencies have to be careful to observe accreditation standards regardless of their method of content delivery.

The second factor is the adult students themselves. They have to be realistic with themselves in terms of time and resource commitments, their support network and their academic ability.

While I encourage all adults to get a degree, some programs will suit some learners better than others. For example, if students need face-to-face contact or know they’re socially oriented, then they probably shouldn’t enroll in an online program. On the other hand, someone who’s self-motivated may be able to take advantage of an online program. Advantages to online programs include a flexible schedule, increased program choices and the opportunity to network with professionals around the world.

What financial aid options are available?

While I'm not a financial aid expert, I believe options are related to the institution offering the program. Students’ best bets are to check with the institutions they’re interested in attending.

JOHN WASHATKA is the director of Academic Services for Adult and Graduate Studies at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Reach him at john.washatka@mvnu.edu or (740) 392-6868 ext. 4702.