A collaboration among Middle Tennessee State University, Motlow State Community College and Tennessee Technology Center at Murfreesboro is focused on increasing retention and graduation rates among nontraditional students over the next three years.
The M.O.A. (Making Opportunities Affordable) Middle Tennessee Consortium, funded with a grant from the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation, will identify and address issues that would keep adult learners from coming back to school or prevent them from completing their degree tracks.
“We are looking forward to helping adults move toward their educational and career goals,” says Dr. Bonny Ball Copenhaver, Motlow’s provost and vice president for student affairs. “This grant will help each institution learn about how we can work with adults by making sure we can meet their needs.”
Dr. David Gotcher, assistant dean of MTSU’s University College, says the key is to create pathways among the three institutions and eliminate as many obstacles as possible.
“In many instances, the delivery of courses and programs has to be modified a little bit to meet these adult learners where they are,” says Gotcher. “That doesn’t mean that the curriculum itself changes.”
The consortium recently hired Echell Eady, a certified career coach with experience in adult education and workforce development, as its adult student coordinator. One of her duties will be to facilitate partnerships with companies in the community.
“It’s to everyone’s advantage for more adults to complete certificate and degree programs,” says Eady. “We’re expecting broad support from area companies, as our success is directly linked to the success of our regional economy.”
The consortium also will partner with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce to offer mentors from the local business community. These mentors will be trained and expected to provide encouragement, insight and inspiration for the adult students who choose to participate.
“Adult students need additional support to manage families, work, school and self,” says Carol Puryear, director of TTC-Murfreesboro. “The juggling is crucial to the completion of credentials.”
Another challenge for the M.O.A. institutions will be to overcome the lack of financial aid available to part-time students. This could be achieved by encouraging companies to modify their scholarship programs.
Analysts from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission will monitor the consortium’s progress.
“As a result of this initiative, we’ll be able to show an increase in adult degree completion, as well as changes in policy and campus culture, that will strongly benefit our adult students,” says Eady.
For more information, contact Gotcher at firstname.lastname@example.org, Eady at email@example.com, Puryear at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Copenhaver at email@example.com.