From Stopout to Scholar: Pathways to Graduation through Adult Degree Completion Programs

From Stopout to Scholar: Pathways to Graduation through Adult Degree Completion Programs

Matt Bergman (College of Education & Human Development, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTHD.2016100101


Although colleges and universities are facing increased scrutiny to demonstrate a return on investment for their students, the demand for college-educated workers continues to grow. As of 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that more than one-fifth of Americans age 25 and older—around 43.5 million people—have some postsecondary education but no degree (Lumina, 2012). This article presents an integrative review of relevant, rigorous, and research based programs that create a fast path to degree completion for working adults. While national data still shows that postsecondary credentials remain a good investment for individuals and the overall economy (Carnavale & Rose, 2015), the public is asserting a greater demand for accountability as tuition continues to escalate well beyond the rate of inflation. This article provides a review and conceptual links to educational pathways for the large group of adult learners with some college and no degree.
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Adult Degree Completion Programs

Adult Degree Completion Programs (ADCPs) are becoming increasingly relevant within the higher education community and are growing at a rapid pace across the nation (Taylor, 2000). According to the North Central Association’s Higher Learning Commission Task Force on Adult Degree-Completion Programs (2000), an adult-degree completion program is one designed especially to meet the needs of the working adult who, having acquired sixty or more college credit hours during previous enrollments, is returning to school after an extended period of absence to obtain a baccalaureate degree. The institution’s promise that the student will be able to complete the program in fewer than two years of continuous study is realized through provisions such as establishing alternative class schedules, truncating the traditional semester/quarter time frame, organizing student cohorts, and awarding credit for prior learning experiences equivalent to approximately 25% of the bachelor’s degree credit total (Task Force, 2000). Adult degree programs share common characteristics including but not limited to: distance (online) options, evening course options, weekend course options, test-out (CLEP and DSST) options, and college credit for prior learning in the workplace.

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