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The student of tomorrow: Indiana colleges respond to the growing ranks of non-traditional students.

Fifteen years after earning a bachelor of science degree, Glenn Claypool of Crown Point headed back to school.

Had he lost his job? No. He held a good job at USX Corp.'s USS Gary Works, utilizing his electrical-engineering background.

Was he changing careers? No. But he was ready to move up the ladder, and he needed what he calls "a career-broadening experience."

Claypool spent 28 months studying for his master's through an on-site program Purdue University Calumet offers at USX in Gary. He continued his regular work schedule, spending four hours two nights a week in a classroom at work.

This year, he closed his books and collected a master's of science degree in management.

"I was involved in maintenance before this," Claypool says. About halfway through his master's program, he became area manager of the company's pickle lines. While he doesn't attribute the new position solely to his advanced studies, "it exposed me to different areas of business, and I have a better appreciation for and understanding of the overall workings of business."

Several decades ago, most adults finished their education by their early 20s, then settled into a lifelong career. Today, lifelong learning is more the style, and night school encompasses everything from a short course on computers to full undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

A sampling of colleges around the state reflects a move by many institutions to tweak their offerings and even adopt entirely new programs to meet Hoosiers' diverse educational needs. Educators are looking to the future, too, not with crystal balls, but with logical conclusions drawn from changing demographics and rapidly evolving technology.

One of the newest is the management program offered by Purdue University Calumet, which just awarded its first 20 master's degrees to students who studied at USX. The graduates are all managers or supervisors at USX, Bethlehem Steel or Inland Steel.

They attended classes year-round for two years, completing 14 courses and earning 42 credit hours while working full-time. Classes were taught from 5 to 9 p.m. two nights a week.

The program mirrors the master's in management program offered on campus except for three courses that usually are electives. The steel company employees instead took courses most responsive to steel-industry needs.

Success is being hailed by both faculty and students. "It couldn't have worked out much better," says Pat Obi, Purdue Calumet assistant professor of management and coordinator of the program. "Rapport between the university and USX and between faculty and students was excellent."

A repeat of the program is planned for spring 1994.

Numerous other Indiana colleges, public and private alike, are keeping pace with programs for adults and other non-traditional students. Other schools have recognized the need and are developing programs.

At Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, the Leadership Education for Adult Professionals program--LEAP for short--is designed specifically for adults, says LEAP Director of Student Recruitment Jerry Shepherd. "Adult students are looking for quality, relevance and a program that's 'doable,' one that it is possible to complete," he says.

"Our goal is to take important and critical theory and see how that applies in the workplace. We offer a theoretical- and application-oriented program," Shepherd says. One way of applying theory is through case studies. "Case studies and discussions are important components in our courses. There is an emphasis on project work. Many of our programs encourage and almost require students to draw on the workplace. The workplace becomes the laboratory."

Wesleyan began offering an evening MBA program for working professionals in 1985. "We were definitely one of the forerunners in offering degree programs for non-traditional students," he says.

New on the scene at Indiana Business College are medical assistant and medical coding programs, representing needs identified by the business world, says Joe Davis, a college vice president. He cites an example of a physician's practice that lost $30,000 in a single year because of incorrect coding.

The college built a new south-side Indianapolis annex that opened this spring to serve its medical education department.

"We're constantly updating our programs. Our primary emphasis is on short-term skills training," says Davis, who talks about cycles in educational needs. "Right now, the cycle has come around to our kind of training," he says.

The college's diploma programs take nine months; associate's degrees, 15 to 18 months. "Our premise is to eliminate non-related courses. We offer very specific training."

St. Mary-of-the-Woods College near Terre Haute has offered "distant learner" education under its Women's External Degree program for 20 years. Students can earn certificates, associate's degrees and four-year diplomas. Various formats allow students to complete course work at home, come to the college on specific weekends, or other combinations of on- and off-campus study.

Vincennes University in Vincennes offers several adult programs at various locations in and outside Indiana. In one innovative program, reports President Phillip Summers, students are given college credit for life experiences. "Someone who has owned a business should not have to take a beginning business course," he cites as an example. "We recognize the competence they have developed through life experience."

Vincennes also focuses on helping students complete degrees through independent study. About 500 are currently enrolled in that program. One even continued studying while serving in Operation Desert Storm. Some courses are supplemented with videotapes of faculty teaching on-campus.

The university maintains well-focused adult programs by asking students, business clients and agency partners for feedback.

Although the University of Indianapolis has long offered programs for non-traditional students, President Benjamin Lantz notes, "We are increasingly becoming market-driven rather than product-driven. I believe that will be increasingly demanded of many of our institutions of higher education."

What's ahead for education is "an exciting ride," he predicts. "Those institutions that are able to meet the exponential changes ahead will be quite different from institutions of 10 and 20 years ago," he says. "We have to re-examine how we educate students."

After five years of increased enrollment and growth, Lantz believes the University of Indianapolis is on the right track. "This could be one of the most dynamic decades we've had," he predicts. "I really believe our university is as alive to what's happening in these respects as any I know."

Teaching non-traditional students requires more forethought than just scheduling classes at night, he says. Many times, classes are held off campus, closer to where the students live and work. And, he says, "We structure our programs for the practicing professional, to meet their needs. We see a strong market for the adult student, the professional who needs extra attention and participating businesses who have specific needs."

Patrick Allen, vice president for academic affairs at Anderson University in Anderson, recalls a prediction from the 1980s that a third of private colleges would go under. "One-third didn't go down," he says. "They discovered the adult learner. Across the country, adult-learner enrollment is up at many, many schools."

Nearly 20 percent of Anderson University's students are older than age 25, Allen reports. The current adult enrollment of about 400 can be attributed to two things: tuition that's one-third what students younger than 25 pay, and programs that are learner-oriented.

"Adults bring a different set of experiences and circumstances, so we offer education on our learners' terms. That's how we approach it," Allen says. Anderson offers some evening classes for associate's, four-year and MBA degrees. Although programs are geared specifically for adults, the older students are encouraged to participate fully in university activities, he says. "They have full use of all facilities. We have not segregated our adult learners to the side."

A faculty study group recently was formed to evaluate its adult programs. Under discussion: How does Anderson maintain its strong teaching values? How can adult students fully participate in the university? How can it have a program that will be full quality, yet convenient, for adults?

"The '90s challenge is making sure the adult learners get their money's worth," Allen says. "They need a convenient way to get a solid degree, and we hope to be part of that process."

The committee's recommendations are expected by midspring, and "we hope to have them up and running by the fall," Allen says. "We want to be very good at what we do and also be very innovative."

Although the trustees at Franklin College in Franklin have elected to maintain a focus on the school's traditional, younger student population, it is bringing an interesting bent to its education that may also meet specific needs of employers.

Acting President Ted Grossnickle reports that Franklin sent its faculty and staff back to school in preparation for two new programs: one on leadership and the other on professional development. "They are learning, with a lot of enthusiasm, ways to incorporate aspects of leadership in the classroom."

A $4 million program center now under construction will bring Franklin students "the non-traditional part of education," he says. "Our students will have a professional development transcript showing ballet, symphony, job-interview training and how to organize an event on campus, for example."

Clamoring from the business world that some high-school graduates aren't prepared for the work world has led to more involvement by business in education. While most educators want to hear and respond to the needs of business, they must also maintain their institutions' educational integrity.

"Some degrees cost a lot of money, but don't have a lot of quality. Maybe they're more targeted at the adult learner's pocket than at the learner," says Allen. He thinks the market will deal with that, though. "Adult learners are getting a lot more sophisticated and will demand better majors and full-time college work."

"We do see abuses," Lantz acknowledges. "We see people selling programs for which we believe academic credit is not appropriate. We recommend looking carefully at the quality of the institution and asking what are the demands. We advise students to be very, very careful in selecting a course of education."

At the same time, where the business world is headed may be where education should go, Lantz admits. To assure that the University of Indianapolis maintains both responsiveness and integrity, possible new programs are evaluated at three levels.

First, "Is the proposed program something we can do effectively and with the level of quality of which we can be proud? And will it maintain the integrity of our institution and meet the needs of the people?"

The university next considers the market potential. And, finally, the bottom line. "Can we support it effectively to meet the fiscal question?"

Business leaders likely recognize that process from their own product and marketing evaluations.
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Title Annotation:Education
Author:Mayer, Kathy
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:1764
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