WHEELING- Thomas Michaud believes programs for non-traditional college students may be a way to improve West Virginia's ranking of 48th in the nation for the percentage of the population having college degrees.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 17.9 percent of West Virginia's population has a bachelor's degree or higher. Locally, in Ohio County, that percentage is 27 percent, according to Census data.
Michaud, dean of the School of Professional Studies at West Liberty University, said non-traditional students-defined by some government agencies as "students 25 years of age or older"-can benefit from going back to college.
Photo By Fred Connors
Thomas Michaud, dean of the School of Professional Studies at West Liberty University, said there are many opportunities for non-traditional students to earn a bachelor’s degree.
"Returning to college may be a difficult decision for some older students," he said. "They wonder how they are going to fit in with 18 and 19 year olds. Some of them have children that age."
He said West Liberty's School of Professional Studies at The Highlands Center offers two affordable ways for students to finish their education with a bachelor's degree.
The Regents Bachelor of Arts Degree and Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership Administration allow students to get college credits for work experiences.
"Some people can get six to nine credits for their work experiences," he said. "Others can get up to 18 credits."
He said both programs are affordable, have flexible scheduling and can be completed in as little as 18 months.
The RBA is a flexible degree option for non-traditional students, providing credits awarded in the traditional manner and through a prior learning assessment based upon what a student already knows.
BLA courses apply topics to for-profit and non-profit organizations and courses are designed specifically for the needs of leaders.
At Wheeling Jesuit University, professional and graduate programs are offered in leadership, education, nursing and business.
Becky Forney, director of Professional and Graduate Studies, said leadership programs include the Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership and Development. The program is a degree-completion program designed for adults with 60 or more semester hours. It meets only one night per week. The Master of Science in Organizational Leadership program is offered in an online format.
She said education programs include an accelerated certification for Teachers and a master's in Educational Leadership. These online education programs are designed to meet the needs of those switching careers to the education profession, adding endorsements to existing licensures, or pursuing additional degrees and certificates.
In the field of health science, an RN-BSN program and a healthcare leadership program are offered for adults. In addition, an MSN program with tracks in Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Education Specialist and Nursing Administration are also offered. All of these programs are offered online.
The Accelerated BSN program provides a pathway to individuals looking to make a career change into the field of nursing. This program is offered in a traditional full-time format.
WJU also offers an MBA and a Master of Science in Accountancy program. These programs meet one night per week enabling students to enroll in full or part-time study.
"WJU has been serving adult learners for over 30 years with a dedicated staff who understands student's needs. We know that life can sometimes interfere with a student's education, and we are here to assist them with the process of enrolling," Forney said. "Whether you attend class on campus or online, our enrollment staff can assist you with every aspect of enrollment making the process as smooth as possible for a potential student."