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Back to school: education options for working professionals.

Education Options for Working Professionals

The image of college students in Utah is changing as an increasing number of the work force returns to school.

Counting these bodies is Rolfe Kerr, Utah commissioner of higher education. "A significant number of older students are going back to school. The average age of students at Salt Lake Community College, for example, now exceeds 30 years of age."

In spite of enrollment pressures, that's good news to the commissioner. One of his objectives is to provide access to education and training that is responsive to the marketplace.

Governor Bangerter is leading the "market-driven" education bandwagon. It's a key component of his "Blueprint for Utah's Economic Future."

"Utah must have workers who are technologically literate, imaginative, and adaptive to change," said the governor, calling for more education and training in applied technology fields as well as more research and development and related professional careers. "Displaced workers should also be retrained in areas critical to the state's developing industries."

The governor's cry is being sounded nationwide. Next year, only 20 percent of the nation's college students will be between ages 18 and 22. The continuing education surge, critical job training needs, and human development movement are making a difference in state campuses and curriculum.

Colleges and universities throughout Utah are trying to meet the challenges by creating new schedules and programs to include more night and weekend classes in job-related fields. Video networks are also being implemented to offer college courses in remote and rural areas. Private companies are showing support for employee education by offering tuition reimbursement.

Returning students are more focused. Not all seek a degree. They want "niche" training to enhance skills and education that will open up career options and raise salary levels.

Weber State Meets the Need

Paul Thompson, president of Weber State University, is one who is listening and responding.

Last year, he met with 20 general managers of firms in Weber and Davis counties, where 75 percent of WSU students come from and where there are 435 manufacturing firms employing 27,000 people. He asked the managers how the school could better serve their needs. "They told me repeatedly how important education is to their companies. They have made continuous learning and job training a high priority."

As a result, Thompson and his team are creating new programs and services to meet the need for small business development, technical assistance, technical education such as computer-integrated manufacturing, assistance in meeting environmental challenges, continuing education, on-site training, networks and databases, and remedial education. Last year, WSU conferred 950 associate degrees in applied technology areas. "We can't wait for (older) students to come to us," said Thompson. "We need to go to them and make it easier for people to learn and to get a world-class education. If Utah businesses are going to survive in a global economy, they will have to be globally minded."

Thompson said that men and women are realizing that the education they received in the past can't sustain them for long in a time of rapid change. Unless they take preventive action, they will soon become obsolete. The only way to survive is to develop a process of continual self-renewal.

Executive MBA Programs

More and more Utah businesspeople are seeking degrees on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Several of the state's universities offer "executive programs" that cater exclusively to people who work full time, but only two--the University of Utah and BYU--have accredited Executive MBA programs.

* At the U's Eccles School of Business, the program takes 21 months. "The academic substance of the executive program is the same as the regular MBA--only the structure is different," said Dave Dungan, director. Five years of work experience and an undergraduate degree are required to be admitted. Classes are taught on Friday evenings and Saturdays.

"Part of the appeal is the chance to work closely with other successful businesspeople," said Dungan. "The program is also international in focus." Second-year students go on a business trip outside the U.S. to gain firsthand experience in the international field. Last year students went to Japan, where they toured Honda, Sony, and international banks and met with other business and political leaders. This year the students will go to Amsterdam. The total cost for the program is $16,500. There are currently 27 students in the second year and 31 in the first year.

* At the BYU Marriott School of Management the program takes 24 months. Classes are taught on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. "The executive program is the standard MBA format," said Lisa Lambert, director. "The difference is the work experience. We look for people who can contribute to the class." She said students are put in groups and work together for the two-year program. "This creates a dynamic learning experience."

Most students in the program receive some sort of tuition reimbursement, ranging from 25 to 100 percent, from their employers; some however, are self-funded. "These are mostly entrepreneurs and salespeople who value the learning experience so much that they are willing to go out on a limb financially. The BYU executive MBA programs costs $16,800.

* The University of Utah and BYU also collaborate on an International MBA program that recruits some professors from other countries, provides international studies and specialized global business instruction, and advanced language courses. The two universities have established a center for international business education.

Some New Programs

* Utah State University has expanded its Partners in Business and other management education programs. In addition to seminars and skill workshops, Partners in Business offers services including access to the university's video library for in-house training. USU has enrolled 70 students in their part-time MBA program. Classes are taught in the evenings in Ogden at the Weber State campus by USU faculty. Virtually all students are employed and hope either to advance in an existing career or to relocate. The program is a two-year commitment. Some fellowships are available, but most students are funded by their employers.

* Southern Utah University has started an undergraduate outreach program in St. George and is currently working on EdNet, a video network which will allow students in several rural areas to simultaneously receive classroom instruction. The students in each location can ask the instructors questions and get answers. The system should be operational this fall.

* Westminster College of Salt Lake is adding a Masters of Public Communication degree to their evening curriculum. This degree focuses on working professionals who desire to improve their written and oral skills. The college also offers an MBA program.

* LDS Business College is expanding its night program, and even offers a 10 percent tuition discount to employers who fund employee education. "We have intensive two-year programs," says newly installed president Steve Woodhouse. "For example, in two years, our computer information students get 51 hours of instruction, compared to 45 hours in a four-year university program. We make it easy for people who are re-entering the job market or changing careers to upgrade skills. We offer morning and afternoon class schedules, night classes, Saturday classes, and one-day a week courses that meet from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. And we have modified our curriculum to be sensitive to the needs of the business community. Almost all graduates find work in their chosen field, partly because we either encourage or require second-year students to have a coop job experience."

* University of Phoenix offers a 30-month MBA program for working professionals who have at least three years of business experience behind them. Craig Swenson, vice president of Academics, says that students are put in "cohort groups" and work together throughout the program, which emphasizes writing, speaking and small-group teamwork.

* The University of Utah will start an "Executive Bachelor of Business Administration Program" in June. This 24-month program allows students who have completed at least two years of college the chance to finish a degree by taking classes two nights a week. The program costs $12,750 and includes an excursion to Mexico in the last quarter.

Employer and Financial Assistance

Utah businesses assist in the education of employees in various ways.

* Geneva Steel brings Utah Valley Community College instructors into the plant to teach some courses. "Top management has a real commitment to keep up with changing technology in order to be a valuable asset to the organization--if they don't, they become a waste of our investment," said Lana Jensen, manager of personnel. Geneva also offers LEAP--Learning Education Advancement Program to clerical employees who are considering promotion to management. The program started last summer, and already 200 people have applied. The applicants are required to go through an application and interview process to determine qualifications. Classes are offered through UVCC and some in-house training for those who qualify. Geneva also offers a management training program and works with employees on tuition reimbursement.

* Novell offers a tuition reimbursement program to its employees. "Because of the nature of our business, the motivation for employees returning to school is employee-initiated. They feel they need it," said Steve Syphus, the benefit specialist who works with Novell's Education Assistance Program.

Such programs make it possible for many people to attend school. Money is always a concern to returning students. Utah schools report that 70 percent of their undergraduate students take advantage of financial assistance. Although graduate students are not eligible for government grants, they may receive government loans, scholarships and fellowships. All monies available are not earmarked exclusively for tuition. The Department of Social Services has funding available for child care for single parents.

Tuition varies widely among Utah's colleges and universities. Executive programs have set tuition fees. Other programs vary depending on the school, workload and program. Also, certain programs are rated higher than others.

Ken Shelton is editor of Utah Business.
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Title Annotation:description of colleges and universities that offer education programs for working professionals
Author:Shelton, Ken
Publication:Utah Business
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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