Seeking the Non-Traditional Student: Carol Aslanian Speaks in IDEAS series
If Fairfield wants to continue to grow and prosper in the years ahead, it should look beyond its full-time undergraduate residential student population and provide more academic degree and certificate programs for graduate and part-time students in a variety of academic delivery formats and subject areas. This is according to Carol Aslanian, a higher education expert on this topic, and the third and final speaker in the spring 2014 IDEAS: Fairfield 2020 Lecture Series. The Lecture Series will continue again the Fall of 2014.
With degrees from Cornell and Harvard, Carol Aslanian was director of the Office of Adult Learning at the College Board for 20 years, spoke to an attentive audience gathered in the Barone Campus Center Oak Room on May 6. Earlier in the day, she led a workshop to Fairfield 2020 Task Force members on trends in graduate and part-time education in the 21st century.
Aslanian, currently a senior vice president for Market Research Services at Education Dynamics, said there are many opportunities for growth with “post-traditional” students --those over age 24 -- who are looking to finish a bachelor’s degree, complete a master’s or certificate program to move ahead in their careers. Since a full 50 percent of undergraduate students don’t finish college in four years, this is a growing market, she said.
These adult learners are people who want to finish what they started, Aslanian said. Some left an undergraduate degree program to work, and then decided that a bachelor's degree will help them advance their career (and earnings) significantly in the workforce. Advancing a career, is in fact, the single biggest motivator for these people to return to college to start or finish a bachelor’s degree or obtain a master’s degree or other academic credentials just as certificates. A large percentage of post-traditional students pay for their tuition out of their personal finances and don’t require financial aid. A challenge for some post-traditional learners is that they might have "old credits" that some schools will not accept, making it harder for them to continue their college education.
Aslanian emphasized that there are thousands of prospective post-traditional students who live close to campus - residents of Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven counties - who value and want higher education. Most are returning students are female, and their average age is much younger than in past years, Aslanian said. Additionally, they are seeking degrees in the areas of business, STEM and health care services, which is where the jobs are and want a degree from a highly respected and quality institution like Fairfield.
Part of Carol’s presentation highlighted what post-traditional students are seeking from higher education today. They juggle an array of responsibilities in their lives, including full-time jobs and family obligations. Aslanian emphasized the importance of efficient customer service to this population from their initial inquiry through enrollment.
However, of crucial importance to the post-traditional population is offering programs that feature a variety of term lengths beyond the traditional 15-week semester format (5 and 7 week courses.) Blended academic programs that offer classroom, hybrid- online courses (some classes, some online) help these students accommodate their busy lives and complete their degree in a shorter period of time. Convenience and flexibility is vitally important to this student population, says Aslanian. Carol also noted that partnerships with area businesses are increasingly important to universities such as Fairfield to provide addition education in the latest business practices and trends.
The IDEAS: Fairfield 2020 Lecture Series brings some of the leading voices in higher education to campus and is part of the University’s initiative to refresh the Strategic Plan. Videos of past lecturers and more information can be found at http://strategicplanning.fairfield.edu/