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Local higher ed leaders talk nontraditional students

Last month, we asked local college leaders about why 2022 is such an important year for higher ed, how the pandemic changed local ed, and what new options are available this year.

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Modern Medical Research Laboratory: Portrait of Latin and Black Young Scientists Using Microscope, Digital Tablet, Doing Sample Analysis, Talking. Diverse Team of Specialists work in Advanced Lab
Modern medical research laboratory.
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Many adults started to rethink career paths during the pandemic. What advice do you have for adults looking to start a new career?

"The opportunities have never been greater for adults who are interested in a new career. Many times that change requires additional education, and we offer many convenient options for continued education. Some ways Saint Mary’s is doing this is through single course options, certificates for specific areas (faster to achieve than a full degree), and by making it possible to combine—or stack—related certificates into a degree program to allow our adult learners to move forward with their career and their education in tandem."

—Tim Albers, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, Saint Mary's University

"We have a class at the University of Minnesota Rochester called, ‘Living on Purpose.’ I love the title—and the principle behind it! Adults who are reflecting on their careers given the multiple disruptions of these last few years are sharing that being connected to purpose is often more valuable than other employment benefits. Poet Mary Oliver’s famous question emerges again and again in adulthood: ‘...what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ If you’re not clear on purpose yet, or you feel it shifting, follow what makes you curious!"

—Lori J Carrell, PhD, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Rochester

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"It’s never too late, and your life experiences, including military training, may earn you college credits toward completing a degree. Contact us to learn about Credit for Prior Learning."

—Jeffery S. Boyd, RCTC President

"Talk to folks in the career(s) you’re considering—find out what the work is really like, what path they took to get where they are, and what they might recommend for you to get started in the new career. Then, look for the education or training options that will support your transition—and don’t discount the skills and experience you already have, even if it came from another industry. Your professional experience and previous college credits may count towards gaining a new degree, which will help you launch a new career."

—Kendra Weber, Director of Admissions, Winona State University

What kinds of options are available for adults looking to simply better themselves through education?

"There are many fascinating courses at the University of Minnesota, with varying delivery modalities (hybrid, online, in-person)—from professional development options for certificates and degrees to lifelong learning. We have a special expertise in bioinformatics at the Rochester campus, with flexible MS and PhD program options, as well as a weekend MBA program and a PhD in occupational therapy. Our BS in health sciences, BS in health professions, nursing degree, and accelerated pathways to physician assistant, pharmacy, and other health professions also welcome adult learners. Working with Mayo Clinic HR and other tech and health partners who employ our graduates, we anticipate expanding our offerings to correspond with emerging talent needs in the coming years."

—Lori J Carrell, PhD, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Rochester

"RCTC offers an array of opportunities from 9-credit certificates to two-year degrees; and, our pathways provide a structured map to complete programs. Consider it like stackable credentials where you earn a certificate to get the job, and then return later to build a higher credential."

—Jeffery S. Boyd, RCTC President

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"There are many options for adult learners, from earning a full degree, to less intensive certificate programs, to continuing education credits obtained one course at a time. Online, asynchronous, in person, evening and weekend programs exist—most folks should be able to find something that fits with their goals and schedules. Winona State offers a variety of programs for working adults both online and in Rochester."

—Kendra Weber, Director of Admissions, Winona State University

"We offer nearly 30 certificate programs, including certificates in business analytics, healthcare management, and cybersecurity. One of the newest is a 15-credit graduate certificate in Catholic school leadership through a new joint initiative between Saint Mary’s and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester to support Catholic school teachers seeking additional education. At Saint Mary’s, students can take a single course or two and achieve a ‘badge’ that showcases their achievement, a more visible credential they can share on LinkedIn and other career social media outlets. Most of our courses are either available online or in-person on nights and weekends, more convenient options for adult learners with jobs and families. A total of 2,192 digital credentials have been shared by alumni, and we will offer more than 100 digital badges by fall. According to alumna Shauna Spencer (who has six badges): 'Digital badging allows you to stand out, because it shows a software engineering or specific analytics class you may have taken and succeeded in. I just think it’s a great way to differentiate yourself from other competitors when you’re looking for a position or even looking for a promotion. They’re just a great way for you as an individual to stand out.'”

—Tim Albers, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, Saint Mary's University

Have online classes opened up more options for adults?

"Absolutely. Saint Mary’s was in the forefront of adult learning starting back in the 1980s. We always keep students at the center of our work, and we know that adult students need flexibility, given they have busy work and personal or family lives. It is a lot more convenient for many adults to be able to take courses online when it fits into their schedules. With faculty trained and highly skilled in delivering online programs, adult students don’t miss a beat and can get a wonderful education. In fact, many state the convenience and quality of online courses is what allows them to return to or continue their education. Our graduates talk about the support and care they received throughout their time with Saint Mary’s, whether in person or through online courses. This is decidedly true for our adult students who came to Saint Mary’s to finish their bachelor’s degrees, another area that Saint Mary’s in Minneapolis has specialized in since the 1980s."

—Tim Albers, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, Saint Mary's University

"Absolutely. Five years ago, 53% of our students were part-time. This past year, that increased to 61%, confirming the need for flexibility to juggle family, jobs and other responsibilities while also pursuing an educational goal."

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—Jeffery S. Boyd, RCTC President

"Winona State continuously adds additional online and graduate programs, particularly suited for adult learners. A lot of these programs are based in Rochester and are heavily connected to key employment sectors in the local economy."

—Kendra Weber, Director of Admissions, Winona State University

"There are many more options for online classes that lead to certificates or degrees, and the convenience appeal is strong for working adults. When the adult learner’s motivation is high, their goals are clear, the teaching quality is consistently good, and the program is from an accredited institution, these expanded online options can be exceptional. Using the NXT GEN platform, the University of Minnesota will be expanding its high-quality online programs over the next several years. Notably, for adults seeking an advanced degree, cohort programs fuel success."

—Lori J Carrell, PhD, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Rochester

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