Published in: MSN Encarta
Author: Christina Couch
Not all universities are made equal, especially for adult learners. Since most colleges cater to traditional students, older learners are frequently left in the dark when it comes to finding institutions that serve their academic and scheduling needs.
Here are 10 campuses that do just that. Evaluated for academic rigor, scheduling options, job placement resources and extracurricular learning opportunities, these campuses are some of the best places for adult students.
Empire State College, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
One of the nation's first colleges designed for adult learners, this institution boasts over 18,000 students -- 100 percent of whom are 21 or older -- spread across 35 physical campuses.
In addition to online courses, the school offers part-time and full residency programs for adults. Students at both the undergrad and graduate levels have access to faculty mentoring programs including one-on-one independent study courses, study abroad opportunities in locations ranging from Greece to the Dominican Republic and self-designed majors that can be tailored to specific career goals.
Berea College, Berea, Ky.
This school provides undergraduate research programs, study abroad opportunities, service-learning programs, co-op arrangements, internships and a student-faculty ratio of 11-to-1. But Berea's biggest attractor is the tuition: zero dollars.
Berea students are provided a full scholarship and work a minimum of 10 hours per week in on-campus jobs ranging from resident adviser to blacksmith. While the student body comprises mostly traditional students, Berea's single-parent program provides free housing, child care, parenting courses and transportation in addition to the scholarship.
Berea grads leave campus debt-free with a degree, four years of work experience and job recommendations.
Walden University, Minneapolis
It's primarily an online institution, but what sets Walden apart is the remote support it offers students. In addition to accessible teachers, Walden provides academic advising, writing mentors, undergraduate tutoring, student support groups, personal counseling, a research center to aid those working on theses and dissertations, and a career services center for upcoming grads.
All academic programs -- from the certificate to the doctoral level -- center on social change. The school encourages students to incorporate service-learning opportunities into their in-class study. Those who crave face-to-face contact can connect with other Waldenites through the school's residency programs offered through affiliate institutions throughout the United States.
University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, Md.
Forget feeling like the oldest one in the room. At UMUC, 82 percent of the students are older than 25 and four out of five undergrads work full time.
Though the school is based in Maryland, it has satellite schools and partner institutions throughout the state and across the globe -- even at military installations.
Academic support services include most of the programs you'd find at a more traditional school (mentoring, tutoring, career development and student clubs). UMUC also provides fiscal support with 25 scholarship programs designed for adult students.
New York School of Interior Design, New York City
Ranked as one of the top 10 undergraduate interior design programs in the country by the book "America's Best Architecture & Design Schools 2009," NYSID is for career-driven students only.
Students won't find a well-rounded menu of courses here, but they will get an adult campus (over 70 percent of students are 25 or older), highly specialized academic programs and award-winning faculty who emphasize portfolio-boosting work over textbook learning.
While the school fares poorly in terms of accommodating full-time working schedules -- no online or night courses are offered -- its job placement rates are through the roof.
Champlain College, Burlington, Vt.
After adding Woodbury College -- a nearby institution specializing in law-related degrees for older students -- Champlain College has gotten significantly more adult-friendly.
Boasting one of the nation's top three online-learning programs according to the Online Education Database, the school is best known for its computer-forensics and digital-investigations undergraduate degree, a program that works hand-in-hand with local law enforcement agencies.
Adult students are invited to participate in any of the school's study abroad, volunteer, service-learning or co-op programs, as well as career development services that help 97 percent of the student body land jobs within four months of graduation.
Webster University, St. Louis, Mo.
Webster focuses on practical majors in areas such as procurement and acquisitions management, and human resources development. That's one of the primary reasons 96 percent of Webster grads find jobs or continue their education within six months of turning the tassel.
Course schedules are flexible and students might take advantage of exchange or travel-study options. Dual-degree capability and a strong alumni network can help motivated grads land a job more easily.
City University of New York Teacher Academy, New York City
Chuck images of mind-numbing courses out the window. Students who enroll at any of the seven Teacher Academy campuses throughout New York begin work in the classroom during their first year.
Course selection is extremely limited -- the academy only offers majors in mathematics, biology, chemistry and earth science -- and the student body is fairly young. However, all students get four years of free tuition, paid summer internship opportunities and a full-time teaching position within the NYC Department of Education upon graduation, provided that they teach for a minimum of two years.
Marylhurst University, Marylhurst, Ore.
Four out of five students on this campus are adults, meaning those who opt for a Marylhurst education won't contend with classrooms packed with recent high school grads.
The school offers online and traditional classes, optional career transition courses to help prepare for the job hunt, opportunities to take courses at partner institutions throughout the Northwest, and travel-study programs, along with more traditional campus extras.
Students with prior work experience could potentially skip some intro courses. The school offers six ways students can earn credit before filling out their applications.
Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
Skip the traditional campus and jump straight to the school's Center for Professional Development. Stanford's price tag is borderline obscene for the average public university candidate ($1,280 per credit ... yikes). But as an Ivy League institution, give Stanford credit for its wide range of academic programs.
Brush-up seminars to graduate degrees are available online or on campus and, unlike Harvard Extension School, all are taught by the same Ph.D.s traditional enrollees get.
Science-minded students who want to test-drive a course before applying can do so for free. Last fall, Stanford's School of Engineering released 10 free online courses in electrical engineering and computer science.
About the Author
Christina Couch is a freelance education writer and the author of "Virginia Colleges 101: The Ultimate Guide for Students of All Ages." Her work can also be found on aol.com and Yahoo! Finance, and in Entrepreneur magazine and Wired magazine.
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