With the economy continuing to grow at a sluggish pace, area colleges are offering new programs across the academic spectrum for midcareer adults looking to burnish their resumes with added skills or degrees.
Framingham State University will offer evening classes in Marlborough for the first time this fall, and Bentley University in Waltham is rolling out a new 11-month MBA program. Meanwhile, Mount Ida College in Newton recently added online programs for students with associate’s degrees in some fields to earn enough credits for a bachelor’s degree.
“You get a lot of people who have lost their job, and they want to train for a position where there’s a lot of jobs,” said Maureen Moriarty, Mount Ida’s vice president for enrollment management.
Moriarty said students have been particularly attracted to programs that open up opportunities in a specific field, like the school’s funeral services, dental hygiene, and veterinary technician programs.
“If I’m going to spend $30,000, I want to make sure I’m going to get a job . . . that makes it worth that expenditure,” Moriarty said.
Moriarty said the funeral services program has twice as many students signed up as expected. “I think a lot of people see the funeral services as sort of recession proof,” she said. “As the baby boomers age, there’s more demand.”
Programs geared toward adults are serving a growing sector of the education market. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college enrollment by students 25 and older increased at a higher rate between 2000 and 2009 than enrollment by students under 25, and that trend is expected to continue.
“The nontraditional student is now the neotraditional student, if you will,” said Monnica Chan, director of policy and research for the New England Board of Higher Education.
Roy Wiggins, dean of the business department at Bentley, said the university’s new 11-month master of business administration program is geared toward people who have been in the business world for five to seven years, and may not be willing or able to take more than a year away from their families and companies.
“Asking them to step out of their lives for two years is really, really tough,” Wiggins said.
While the 11-month program requires a full-time commitment, Bentley’s existing master’s degree programs with evening classes — including accounting, finance, and information technology — are often attended by working professionals, Wiggins said.
“These are typically folks that are working, looking to get a leg up on moving up the corporate ladder,” Wiggins said.
Framingham State will offer classes for the first time this fall on the campus of Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlborough. Classes in Spanish, writing, world history, and race and ethnic relations will be offered on an evening schedule. Credits go toward a bachelor’s degree.
“An adult has family responsibilities, working during the day. . . We envision this program for that type of nontraditional student,” said university spokesman Dan Magazu.
Meanwhile, the down economy has motivated some workers to sharpen their English-language skills at Framingham State, said Rebecca Hawk,director of community education and English language programs.
“I think the competition becomes a lot tougher,” Hawk said. “So people realize they can’t get by with minimal language skills. They really need to build their language skills, and they need to be articulate and conversant.”
Robert Hansen, chief executive of the University Professional & Continuing Education Association, said adult learners are experiencing a “golden age.”
“Until recently, many universities were largely organized around the first-time, full-time student. The programs are more theory-based than practice-based,” Hansen said. “There’s been kind of an inversion.”
Dean College in Franklin began in the last few years offering courses at the Franklin campus of data storage company EMC Corp. Employees at EMC take classes in a cohort, and work toward associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Each semester, students can take up to one regular course and two accelerated courses, meaning students can finish three classes in a semester while only attending class two nights a week.
Carol Connolly, director of operations for Dean’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies, said the college is “still very much in demand” despite growing concerns over costs.
“When I meet with students who are trying to come back to earn an associate’s degree or go on to a bachelor’s degree, most often I hear them say, ‘I need this degree because my employer wants me to have it, I can’t move on without it,’” Connolly said. Continued...