The American Council on Education (ACE) has awarded a $25,000 grant to Eastern Connecticut State University for a pilot project aimed at expanding access to higher education for adult learners. The grant is one of six awarded for pilot projects at institutions around the country, part of ACE’s multipronged national initiative to ensure more adults in the United States obtain college degrees.
Eastern’s grant proposal is titled, “The Reverse Internship: Converting Banked Applied Learning into College Credit.”
The Lumina Foundation estimates that the United States must increase the percentage of adults with college degrees from 38 percent in 2010 to 60 percent by 2025 to maintain an educated workforce. Connecticut is hard pressed to be part of that effort for several reasons. College attendance by nontraditional adult students is low, among the bottom third of the states; the cost of attending college in Connecticut is high and growing; and the drop-out rate of adult students attending college in Connecticut is high.
However, the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning recently studied adult students at 48 colleges across the country and found that adults who receive credit for prior learning were more successful in completing their degrees in a timely fashion.
“Eastern has a long history of serving adults students,” explained Carol Williams, associate dean of continuing education, “and we have had a Credit for Lifelong Learning program since 1973.”
Even so, the program is labor intensive and serves only about 20 adult students a year. “Capitalizing upon the idea that working adults have ‘banked’ valuable applied learning through their work,” says Williams, “we will offer working adults a way to turn that learning into meaningful college credit through a ‘reverse internship’ concept whereby individuals will be able to convert their prior learning into college credits equivalent to a standard practicum or internship usable toward degree requirements.”
The program will incorporate an online interactive tutorial for reverse internships, as well as other faculty support and guidance, with the goal of increasing the number of part-time adult students taking advantage of the CLL program, while decreasing the cost of their college education.
A Kresge Foundation grant of $600,000 announced earlier this year is helping support ACE’s national adult education agenda. ACE also is devoting additional funding from the Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation and Hearst Foundation to the overall adult education initiative and will spend approximately $1 million to propel action on a national scale.
An aggressive adult learner agenda is needed in an economy where, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 63 percent of the 46.8 million job openings that will be created by 2018 will require workers with at least some college education.
ACE is deploying Kresge Foundation money, as well as Ford Foundation funds, for these six pilot projects testing new strategies to assist adult learners in pursuing a postsecondary path. Among the key adult education issues tackled by the projects: How to ensure adult students receive appropriate college credit for prior learning experience gained in the workplace or the military.
Eastern and the other five institutions that have won grants, including public and private, two- and four-year colleges and universities, will present the outcome of their projects at the ACE Annual Meeting, which will be held March 2-5, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
“These promising initiatives have the potential to enhance adult education in this country and offer adult learners a more accessible pathway to a degree,” said Gretchen M. Bataille, ACE senior vice president for leadership and lifelong learning. “This exemplifies the commitment ACE and The Kresge Foundation have to forging progress in the national adult education arena.”
“As the United States seeks to retake its position as the world’s best educated nation, it is critical that colleges and universities look to opportunities to support older adults to build and retool their skills through lifelong learning,” said William Moses, Kresge’s program director for education. “Working with adults offers the twin benefit of increasing American competitiveness globally and providing individuals and their families a more secure future in these changing economic times.”
ACE has long led the national movement to recognize and promote adult learning in higher education, from initiatives for returning World War II veterans to the GED® test and other programs that evaluate military and corporate training and courses for college credit recommendations.