College classrooms are no longer exclusive to recent high school graduates. This year alone, nearly 3,300 students at the University of Mount Olive will be considered adult students. Those students, with a median age of 37, will not only be trying to obtain a college education, but also balancing full-time jobs and family responsibilities.
According to Lisa Nuesell, Dean of Extended Education at UMO, one of the factors that has led to the increase in adults pursuing their college degrees is the opportunity a postsecondary degree can provide to those in the workforce. “A number of economic studies have recognized the value of education and the opportunity it provides for promotion and job satisfaction,” she noted.
“The number of adult learners is on the rise, making colleges and universities uniquely aware of the need for programs that are designed with the adult student in mind,” said Nuesell. “Innovative, higher education institutions, like the University of Mount Olive have improved access to education for adults by offering flexible programs that can accommodate the complicated lifestyles of working adults.”
Marilyn Yoder of Cary is a perfect example. In 2013 Yoder decided to complete her degree in business management. It is a goal she has had for over two decades. As the mother of two children, Yoder postponed her college aspirations many times because of life and family responsibilities. On Aug. 27, Yoder, who is now in her fifties, will finally achieve her dream as she walks across the stage at UMO to earn her bachelor’s degree.
“Over the years we moved multiple times to different states,” said Yoder. “At the time my children were young, and I had no family to assist, and it was not the right time for me to return to school. I also knew when I returned to school I wanted to be able to give 100% and do well rather than slide through.”
At the University of Mount Olive RTP location, Yoder has excelled. She is currently on target to graduate with honors and she plans to use her degree to grow and evolve with her current employer, where she is the director of a church operated preschool center. She is also open to a change in direction, if and when the opportunity presents itself.
“I have learned knowledge and skills applicable in many different organizational settings,” she said. “The importance of team work and management are important factors in being successful in any workplace. I have also become more confident in my own abilities.”
Adult students can also receive a significant amount of financial aid if they qualify. “Our goal is to help students find adequate financial resources to attend UMO,” said Katrina Lee, director of Financial Aid. “By combining institutional scholarships and grant programs with federal and state assistance and installment payment options, UMO makes college possible for deserving and qualified students.”
At UMO, bachelor degree options include accounting, business management, criminal justice and criminology, early childhood education, healthcare management, human resource management, leadership, management information systems, and religious studies. An associate degree in general studies is also available. The University also offers online programs including the RN to BSN program for registered nurses who have graduated with an associate degree or diploma in nursing; criminal justice and criminology; the associate degree in General Studies; and the Master of Business Administration degree. Coming soon, the University plans to offer the master of education degree and the master of science in nursing degree.
“It’s all about packaging our programs to meet the needs of our students,” states Oscar Rodriguez, director of UMO at RTP. “Most of our students have jobs, families and other obligations that they cannot walk away from. Whatever their situations are, we work with them to accommodate their needs.”