It's never too late to graduate

University encourages non-traditional students to return, finish degrees

8/7/2009 - By: Natalie Savidge

A mere 23 percent of Nevada’s young adults, ages 25 to 34, hold a college degree, placing Nevada 50th in the country and statistically among the lowest compared with other nations, according to a report by the Lumina Foundation for Education. However, this same report suggests an opportunity to improve: more than 304,000 or nearly 28 percent of working age adults in Nevada have earned some college credits, but have not obtained a degree.

Lumina’s Non-traditional No More: Policy Solutions for Adult Learners — referred by the University as Don’t Wait — Graduate! — is encouraging these “ready adults” to come back to college and earn their diploma.

Last year, Nevada was one of three pilot states, along with Arkansas and Colorado, to receive a $65,000 Lumina Foundation grant to increase adult learners’ access to and success in postsecondary education.

“Combined efforts are being made to reach more non-traditional students and those who left college before completing a degree,” said Nancy Markee, director of the University’s Academic Advising Center. “We have already started contacting more than 400 students who meet the criteria which includes those who once attended the University, have completed at least 90 credits and left in good academic standing.

“Amazingly, we found that some have completed degree requirements and have only to apply for graduation.”

The University is partnering with other Nevada System of Higher Education institutions, including Great Basin College, Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College in northern Nevada, to identify the non-traditional, ready-adult population. The effort supports Lumina's goal to increase the higher education attainment rate of the United States to 60 percent by the year 2025. The foundation’s mission is to work harder and faster to educate enough college graduates for the country to sustain the vitality of its local communities and the economy.

Markee said there are more opportunities for non-traditional students to get back to school and graduate than ever before.

“We have correspondence classes, evening and new weekend classes offered to help fit most schedules,” Markee said. “There are more than 920 late-afternoon and evening offerings with 14 complete degree programs available ‘after hours.’”

The Lumina report stresses the need for a well-prepared and adaptable workforce, noting that boosting the number of Nevadans who earn college degrees will allow the state to stay competitive and sustain long-term economic health.

“More value needs to be placed on the importance of higher education and this program is a way to help students return, get through school and earn their diploma,” Markee said.

Non-traditional No More helps institutions create a navigable path to college success and to address the critical needs in the adult population. Academic advisors help determine a plan of study that fits each student’s needs and will work with the student to chart degree progress and financial aid options.

To reach an academic advisor, call (775) 784-8293 or e-mail graduate@unr.edu.

Here are the stories of Antoinette Brandt and Chad Peters, re-entry students at the University of Nevada, Reno and part of the Non-traditional No More program.

Having a Plan B

Antoinette Brandt moved to Reno in 1989 from Portola, Calif. a few years after her high school graduation. College in California had become unaffordable, so she left, earned some credits at the University of Nevada, Reno but did not graduate. She took a job in Reno, held a couple of successful and lucrative positions since, but in June 2005, her position was eliminated and this mother of two young sons was left to look for other options. Brandt decided to stay home with the kids and took some part-time work in a program at her son’s elementary school working with children with autism.

Brandt attended a University of Nevada Commencement ceremony at Lawlor Events Center in December 2008 and heard of another option.

“I was there supporting a friend who was receiving his doctorate degree,” Brandt said. “(University President) Dr. Milton Glick spoke before the ceremony and in his speech, he talked about the importance of an education and how it’s never too late to go back and finish. He mentioned the non-traditional student program they were launching and as Oprah says, that was my ‘ah-ha moment.’”

Brandt decided to return to school and enrolled as a full-time student this last spring.

“I feel like my advisor and the professors I have had, have all been supportive, making themselves available to anyone if needed, with a willingness to help us succeed,” she said. “It’s very refreshing.”

Obtaining her degree has been a personal goal and Brandt says it shows her children that you’re never too old to pursue your goals.

“They have been very supportive of me and think it’s cool having a mom that’s in college. When I do decide to join the workforce again, I believe I’ll have more opportunities as a college graduate," she said. "I’ve also been thinking about obtaining my substitute teaching license.”

She plans to graduate with a degree in general studies and a minor in speech communication in May 2010.

Finishing what you start

Spare Time Bowling Center in Winnemucca, Nev. celebrated 25 years of business this year and owner Chad Peters couldn’t be more proud of his family’s successful business. He returned to Winnemucca 12 years ago with the opportunity to take over the Center.

Since graduating Lowry High School in 1992, Peters has infiltrated himself into many communities, playing college basketball at Napa Valley Junior College for one year, coaching basketball, baseball and football at McQueen High School, and currently coaching Lowry Junior High’s eighth-grade boys’ basketball team.

While in Reno, Peters attended the University of Nevada for a few years focusing mainly on secondary education classes, but took ownership of the family business before he earned his degree.

“With the business I’m in already being established, I may never need a degree but I felt it was necessary to show my young son that it is important to finish what you start,” Peters said. “I initiated the phone call to the University and thankfully was connected to Nancy (Markee, director of the University’s Academic Advising Center). With her help and enthusiasm, I was motivated to get started the minute I got off the phone.”

Living in a rural town, Peters has mostly taken Internet-based courses.

“The freedom to work on courses at my own convenience is what makes it possible to continue pursuing my education,” he said.

Peters needs to complete 15 credits before he earns his degree in General Studies with an emphasis in business and secondary education. He plans to graduate in May 2010.

“Nancy made it feel like it was an attainable goal,” Peters said. “She has made this whole process completely enjoyable and painless. I deeply appreciate it.”


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