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is part of the Jossey-Bass higher education newsletter series. It highlights best practices in helping students fulfill their potential, plus keeps readers informed of critical legal issues. It is available in print, online and as a PDF delivery. Read More
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is part of the Jossey-Bass higher education newsletter series. It highlights proven strategic enrollment strategies and systems, plus legal briefs to keep enrollment officials out of legal hot water. It is available in print, online and as a PDF delivery. Read More
Generating Opportunities
1/15/2015 12:00 AM

As more individuals leave military service and re-enter civilian life, institutions find themselves in competition for a pool of prospective adult students who are goal-oriented, motivated and have a built-in source of educational financial support. Making sure your campus is truly veteran-friendly can help you stand out and attract more student-veterans.

Each year, several publications release their lists of colleges and universities deemed veteran-friendly. Criteria for rating and ranking the institutions has ranged from minimal, such as membership in the now-defunct Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, along with acceptance of the concurrent application, to more in-depth examination of the quantity and type of services offered.

As more individuals leave military service and re-enter civilian life, institutions find themselves in competition for a pool of prospective adult students who are goal-oriented, motivated and have a built-in source of educational financial support. Making sure your campus is truly veteran-friendly can help you stand out and attract more student-veterans.

Each year, several publications release their lists of colleges and universities deemed veteran-friendly. Criteria for rating and ranking the institutions has ranged from minimal, such as membership in the now-defunct Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, along with acceptance of the concurrent application, to more in-depth examination of the quantity and type of services offered.

Some of the lists provide a broad cross-section of institutions in their reviews, while others focus on a select group of institutions, such as those offering online programs. What’s important to remember regarding the development of these lists is that the criteria, selection methods and rankings have very little to do with what veterans need to help them be most academically and socially successful in higher education.

Qualifying as veteran-friendly entails more than maintaining membership in initiatives similar to SOC or offering the Yellow Ribbon Program with the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It doesn’t mean a college must have a one-stop-shop veterans’ center to attend to all issues impacting student-veterans either. Agreeing to review military transcripts for applicable academic credit and having a veterans’ club also doesn’t automatically put a school in the veteran-friendly category.

While these and other functional resources do contribute to providing better support to student-veterans, using only these criteria to set the bar for veteran-friendly institutions winds up doing a disservice to student-veterans.

That’s because some veterans use these lists to make serious decisions about where to use their hard-earned education benefits to obtain valuable further education and training to support their next career move after military service. Veterans rely on the information provided to help them determine where to attend, what available services will help provide them with needed support, and how long they will need to attend before graduating.

This triggers concern because veterans don’t know the true meaning behind the veteran-friendly label and therefore become subject to making decisions based on false information. Without a clear picture of what veteran-friendly truly means, veterans can find themselves drawn to educational environments that don’t support their retention and persistence to graduation and may lead them to spend valuable benefits on courses of study that don’t lead them to viable careers.

I’ve seen this happen at a number of institutions that had been rated as veteran-friendly in publications’ lists but then turned out to lack a true veteran-friendly environment for the student-veterans who chose to attend those institutions. A truly veteran-friendly institution needs to go beyond the “friendly” label by fostering an institutional culture that’s supportive, appreciative, respectful, embracing and inclusive of student-veterans.

Veteran-friendly institutions must offer all of the resources and support services mentioned earlier, but in addition to incorporating other important strategies to build a campus climate geared toward developing student-veterans’ holistic success and engaging them in their growth toward a new career in civilian life.

Take the right steps to become more veteran-friendly

You can help your institution qualify as truly veteran-friendly by taking the following critically important programmatic steps:

  1. Military Cultural Competency Training. Implement military cultural competency training campuswide, particularly for those responsible for teaching and advising activities to learn how to effectively educate and make thoughtful referrals of student-veterans to supportive resources.
  2. Academic Outreach. Explain how veterans can equip themselves with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue new careers, how they will receive credit for their military experience, and the requirements for graduation.
  3. Career Services Outreach & Staff Training. Preemptively initiate contact with student-veterans to ensure they’re aware of and know how to access available resources because they may not otherwise know about or seek career services assistance. And ensure staff have adequate training in this area.
  4. Integrated Counseling, Disability Services & Health. Provide information about campus resources that can collaboratively address mental health, disabilities and other health challenges that may be unique to their military background.
  5. Financial Aid & Business Services. Fully explain to student-veterans their available financial aid options, the true cost of their education, and their education benefits, keeping in line with the president’s executive order. Student-veterans need support services that help them manage the unique needs they bring to campus. Instead of media outlets’ veteran-friendly labels based on rankings drawn from only the most basic criteria, institutions should seek to meet a higher standard of becoming veteran-friendly by meeting veterans’ holistic needs in helpful, supportive and inclusive ways. As we seek to raise student-veteran graduation rates, it’s incumbent upon higher education to provide the resources that provide student-veterans with the best possible chance for academic and social success.
Retention
12/30/2014 12:00 AM

Well-designed articulation agreements can help your adult learners transfer seamlessly from a two-year to a four-year college. But officials at Missouri State University have developed partnerships with two-year institutions that encompass much more than streamlined course transfers.

Those partnerships help both the community colleges and MSU meet enrollment goals and enhance students’ academic experiences. The collaborations involved the campus communities from the presidents down. Academic administrators and faculty members at all the institutions work together to promote good curricular developments and effective transfer policies.

Well-designed articulation agreements can help your adult learners transfer seamlessly from a two-year to a four-year college. But officials at Missouri State University have developed partnerships with two-year institutions that encompass much more than streamlined course transfers.

Those partnerships help both the community colleges and MSU meet enrollment goals and enhance students’ academic experiences. The collaborations involved the campus communities from the presidents down. Academic administrators and faculty members at all the institutions work together to promote good curricular developments and effective transfer policies.

“There’s an enormous value in collaboration,” said Gloria Galanes, the dean of the College of Arts and Letters at MSU. She spoke at the American Conference of Academic Deans Annual Meeting last year, along with Tamera Jahnke, MSU’s dean of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences; and John Bookstaver, the dean of the Division of Business, Science, Education, Math and Computer Science at St. Charles Community College.

MSU's A+ program encourages a smooth transfer by offering:

  • General education completion. If a transfer student has earned an associate degree, MSU considers general education requirements for the bachelor’s degree to be completed — rather than evaluating transfer credit on a course-by-course basis.
  • Transfer guides. To promote seamless articulation into particular majors, MSU officials created guides that help students choose what courses to take at the community college. By following the recommendations in them, students can arrive at MSU on track to graduate when they plan to with the majors they choose. About 88 percent of students come to St. Charles with the goal of transferring, said Kathy Brockgreitens-Gober, the dean of enrollment services. The transfer guides are available in print on campus at St. Charles and are posted online.
  • Curriculum redesign. In the past, students who transferred from Ozarks Technical Community College to MSU for biology and chemistry majors had trouble graduating in four years, Jahnke said. OTCC officials redesigned their curriculum so students would arrive at MSU on track to complete their degrees. The two institutions created a pathway all the way to graduate school, Jahnke added. Plus, OTCC students in chemistry courses use MSU’s labs, so they are comfortable on campus when they transfer.
  • Connections at top levels. “Relationships are extremely important,” Galanes said. The presidents from MSU and OTCC meet regularly. Plus, about five key officials from each campus meet regularly to keep collaborations moving forward, said Don Simpson, the associate vice president for enrollment management at MSU. MSU and St. Charles are 230 miles apart, so collaborations require commitment. The deans have worked together to plan ways for faculty members to visit with one another, Bookstaver said. Those visits “undid misconceptions about the quality of the faculty,” Galanes said. Plus, once a semester, a faculty member from MSU’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences visits St. Charles to attend a class and meet with students and faculty members. That gives MSU an ongoing presence there, Jahnke said.
  • Reverse-transfer agreements. “Reverse transfer is more and more important for community colleges in Missouri,” Bookstaver said. That’s because the completion rate is a factor in determining amounts for performance funding. “A lot of students don’t care if they get the associate degree. They just want to get what they need to go on,” he said. So many of them leave without completing the degree. With reverse transfer, they can earn an associate degree by transferring classes to the community college from MSU. Simpson started a reverse-transfer effort by identifying students who transferred from OTCC with 30 or more hours but no degree. He emails those students, asking them to consider taking advantage of reverse transfer to complete their degrees. The emails include a link to a website that explains the process. And MSU waives the transcript fee when former OTCC students send transcripts to OTCC.
  • Presence at community colleges. An MSU enrollment staff member has her desk at the information center at OTCC to discuss transfer options with students there, Simpson said.
  • Cooperative programs. MSU and OTCC collaborate on choosing a common reader for entering students. They also provide some language courses together. And St. Charles students can participate in MSU’s study-abroad programs.

Implement strategies that promote collaboration

Transfer students are vital to enrollment goals at Missouri State University. Academic administrators and faculty members serve a critical role in creating and maintaining effective collaborations to recruit those students. Strategies MSU’s deans use include:

  • Making collaboration a priority. Administrators need to set the tone for staff and faculty members who participate in the initiatives.
  • Advocating for seamless articulation. Good policies help students progress on schedule. For example, MSU gives credit for general education completion to students with associate degrees from Missouri community colleges. And administrators from MSU and partner community colleges work together to align curricula to ensure that students arrive at MSU on track to graduate.
  • Providing resources to support collaboration. For example, faculty members from MSU visit classes at St. Charles every semester. It is several hundred miles away, so they need funding to pay for the travel.

For more information, you may contact Don Simpson at donsimpson@missouristate.edu.

Transfer Students
12/30/2014 12:00 AM

At Appalachian State University, officials made the transfer process simpler for students and more efficient for staff members by creating an Office of Transfer Articulation. Since that office was launched in July 2010, its scope has grown considerably to support transfer students before and after they enroll.

At Appalachian State University, officials made the transfer process simpler for students and more efficient for staff members by creating an Office of Transfer Articulation. Since that office was launched in July 2010, its scope has grown considerably to support transfer students before and after they enroll.

“We want the transfer students to have a good experience and graduate in a timely manner,” Susan Davies said. She’s the associate vice chancellor for enrollment management.

Before the new office was created, the Admissions Office articulated courses for most first-year and transfer students. And a staff member in the Registrar’s Office articulated courses from out-of-state institutions. The five admissions professionals processing 18,000 to 20,000 applications and articulating credit were overloaded, Davies said.

The new office was located geographically between the Admissions and Registrar’s Offices because it works closely with both, Davies said. It strives to provide articulation reports within two weeks of the time a student is admitted, Davies said.

The office launched with funding for one new position. Director Jane Rex was “the best hire I ever made,” Davies said. Her extensive experience working at community colleges was especially important for the role. Davies also shifted two staff members from the Registrar’s Office into the new office.

Initiatives to support transfer students include:

  • Mentoring transfer students through the Jump Start Appalachian program. The program coordinator collaborates with officials from Appalachian’s top three feeder community colleges. Ten transfer students who attended those colleges mentor prospective and new transfers. They visit the colleges two or three times a month, setting up tables in high-traffic areas where they can talk with students about their transfer plans. One college even gave the program an office, Davies said.
  • Hosting a transfer symposium for the campus community. About 500 faculty and staff members spent an afternoon being trained on how to welcome transfer students to campus and help them persist. They learned about transfer-student issues and articulation agreements. Appalachian’s provost provided $10,000 for grants to help attendees research topics, create new programs or attend relevant conferences.
  • Linking transfer articulation with degree audit. Admitted students can view their articulated courses in DegreeWorks so they can see how the courses fit with the requirements for their programs. That saves steps for them when choosing what courses to register for. Before that, admitted students were notified of what courses would transfer and how, but they had to determine on their own how those credits worked with their degree programs.
  • Sharing information about transfer students with the campus community. Davies posts talking points and enrollment demographics about transfer students on the institution’s website for faculty and staff to review. She wants to dispel myths about transfer students. For example, many people are surprised to learn that 40 percent of Appalachian’s transfers typically come from four-year institutions, Davies said. The other 60 percent are from community colleges.
  • Expanding the communication plan. Potential transfer students receive recruitment materials from the Admissions Office and updates when their application is complete and when a decision has been made. Then a communications plan from the Office of Transfer Articulation starts up.

Advise transfer students to help them maximize their credit

When Appalachian State University adopted a new general education curriculum a few years ago, it created some problems for transfer students. It worked best for students who started at Appalachian for their first year. Officials needed to find solutions to ensure that transfer students got the credit they deserved and to maintain good relationships with community colleges.

It adopted a policy that if transfer students completed the core curriculum at their previous institution, Appalachian recognizes that work as completion of its general education curriculum. The Office of Transfer Articulation also advises students about their options to get the most credit for their previous work, Davis said. That could mean calling the student to suggest that she wait a semester to transfer so that she can complete the core curriculum before transferring.

Plus, Appalachian recently implemented a reverse-transfer process. If students have completed most of the credits they need for the core curriculum at their community college, they can take the remaining courses at Appalachian. They then transfer those courses back to the community college so that they complete their associate degree there. That degree satisfies Appalachian’s general education requirement.

For more information, you may contact Susan Davies at daviess@appstate.edu.

Leaders & Innovators: Rita Serotkin, associate VP/dean, Center for Continuing Education and Summer School, Guilford College
12/19/2014 12:00 AM

Rita Serotkin, who has worked in adult higher education for much of her adult life, became an adult learner in 2001 at the age of 54 when she decided to finally pursue her doctoral degree. She had always wanted to, but there was always a reason to put it off.

“The truth of it is that I was scared — just absolutely terrified. ‘A doctorate? Me? Am I smart enough?’ These are the things that ran through my head,” she said. “It had been 30 years since I’d gotten my master's, so I thought, ‘Oh my God, I don’t remember how to write a term paper, do research with footnotes, and all that stuff.’”

Rita SerotkinRita Serotkin, who has worked in adult higher education for much of her adult life, became an adult learner in 2001 at the age of 54 when she decided to finally pursue her doctoral degree. She had always wanted to, but there was always a reason to put it off.

“The truth of it is that I was scared — just absolutely terrified. ‘A doctorate? Me? Am I smart enough?’ These are the things that ran through my head,” she said. “It had been 30 years since I’d gotten my master's, so I thought, ‘Oh my God, I don’t remember how to write a term paper, do research with footnotes, and all that stuff.’”

Then, while working at Widener University, where part of her job at the time was advising students in doctoral programs, a student she had recruited and with whom she had become friends came into her office and asked her when she was going to get started on her doctorate.

“She spit back right at me all the things I had said to her,” Serotkin said. “She was my age, and she convinced me that if she could do it I could too, which was what I always told prospective students.”

Now, Serotkin, who serves as the associate vice president and dean of Guilford College’s Center for Continuing Education and Summer School, tells prospective and current students that she knows exactly how terrified they feel, because she felt that way not so long ago. She also makes sure they know that her job is to remove as many obstacles as possible to help them succeed.

And she ensures adult learners at the institution have access to the kinds of support services they need. For example, a learning commons offers free tutoring and workshops on topics such as developing study and test-taking skills. Credit-bearing classes such as Guilford’s Adult Transitions, Gateways to Success, and Introduction to Computers addresses adult learners’ personal insecurities and academic deficiencies.

An adult student government ensures that older learners have access to the kinds of opportunities that appeal to them, such as help finding better jobs, managing their time, and balancing competing responsibilities.

And a peer mentoring program matches new adult learners with current mature students who have achieved academic success. Mentors and mentees are matched based on their majors and interests. With some of the money from a $100,000 grant from the Council of Independent Colleges and Walmart, she grew the mentoring program to about 10 times its size. And each semester, it continues to grow because students who benefitted as mentees want to pay it forward by mentoring future students.

Serotkin has also developed new undergraduate programs since arriving at Guilford in 2006, convinced the faculty to offer existing programs at night, and worked with leaders at other area institutions to develop a referral center that will be located in downtown Greensboro, where people will be able to go to talk to advisors about the best institution and program based on their needs, career interests and prior college experiences.

Not everything is rosy. The state of North Carolina recently did away with a program that gave in-state students attending private institutions some scholarship money. That has made Guilford less accessible to many adults. And as many institutions herd adult learners into online programs because they’re less costly to run than face-based ones, adult enrollments have suffered. Plus, some students now arriving at Guilford come with negative experiences in online programs.

“Running an adult degree program is difficult, no matter where you are, because most are run on a shoestring budget,” she said. “But distance learning isn’t right for every adult learner. Many aren’t technologically savvy or have the independent learning skills needed to succeed in online programs. Unfortunately, distance education is how a lot of institutions are managing to cut costs.”

Serotkin tells those students that the negative experiences they’ve had are in the past, and reiterates that she’s there to ensure they have whatever supports they need to succeed.

“Yes, the bottom line is what everyone is looking at with adult-serving programs, but you can’t lose sight of the students,” she said.

For more information, you may contact Rita Serotkin at serotkinrs@guilford.edu.

 

 

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  • Meet the Editor

    Cynthia Gomez
    Managing Editor

    Cynthia Gomez became the editor of Recruiting & Retaining Adult Learners, formerly known as Nontraditional Students Report, in 2010. She has covered higher education for more than a decade, and has written and edited pamphlets and books for higher education audiences.
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