USF’s new partnership good for older students
USF is partnering with Complete Florida, a legislatively funded initiative that assists working adults to transition back to school, expanding its outreach to a demographic that is often ignored.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of 18 to 24-year-olds enrolled in college was 40 percent in 2014. This accounted for 12 million students between 18 and 24 years of age. Similarly, 8.2 million students 25 years old and over had enrolled in higher education in 2014 and that number is only growing.
Yet for many older students, obtaining a college degree is nearly impossible. Most adults work full-time and have a family, making attending classes unfeasible. While some classes are offered online, entire degrees that can be acquired solely through online work are rare.
Even students working part time have difficulty juggling classes and their jobs. Many schedule all their classes on one or two days a week in order to be able to provide their employers with enough hours.
Complete Florida is attempting to answer that time crunch. Founded in 2013 by the Florida Legislature, the program will assist the 2.8 million Floridians who had started a college career and never finished.
Students can sign up for the program and virtually attend one of 14 colleges in the state. Florida International University, Miami Dade College, UCF, USF and 10 other colleges are now part of the program.
USF has agreed to offer five online Bachelor of General Studies degrees. The concentrations are in criminal justice, information architecture, information studies, information technology, public administration and public health.
The university has offered the Bachelor’s of General Studies degrees since 2008, however it is just now joining the Complete Florida program.
Many of those utilizing the program are doing so in order to advance in the workforce or to switch careers to one with a more dependable demand. The concentrations chosen will allow them to find a job with ease.
“(The degrees) are sort of the most workforce-relevant in terms of skills and area,” said William Cummings, the associate dean for strategic initiatives at USF. “We also picked those five because they are fully online, so that also gives students maximum flexibility to complete their degree.”
Complete Florida also offers coaches for its students, allowing them to receive guidance throughout their education, much like advisors assist on-campus students. The program also assists with registration, working on transferring old credits over and using work experience to earn non-traditional credits.
Online degrees also allow adults seeking a degree to separate themselves from the college atmosphere. Most 30-year-olds are no longer interested in living with roommates a decade younger than them in student housing. They don’t want to be the outlier in classes, they aren’t interested in studying in the library and in no way want to “relive” their early twenties.
By obtaining an online degree, they can continue on with their lives without regressing, all while taking a few credits in the comfort of their home.
USF will begin its partnership in the spring and estimates 50 to 100 students will enroll in the program. The university plans on increasing enrollment each year, which will further its goal of providing accessible education for all interested students.
Breanne Williams is a senior majoring in mass communications.