As more adults return to college to pursue their education goals, they face unique challenges that can often hinder their success. Financial barriers, juggling work and family commitments, and limited access to resources are just a few of the obstacles that adult learners and returning students can be up against.
In a recent interview with ReUp, Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC) shed light on these challenges and highlighted the initiatives they have implemented to address them. From dedicated admissions counselors to partnerships with career development organizations and scholarship opportunities, LCCC has taken steps to help adult learners overcome barriers and thrive.
ReUp spoke to Ellia Saban-Zebedy, Executive Director of Enrollment Management at LCCC to learn more about the challenges not only for returning students but for two-year community colleges like LCCC.
What are some of the challenges facing students who have stopped out or put a pause on their education? What are some trends you’re seeing?
Ellia First and foremost, we were seeing financial barriers that many of our students faced during the pandemic that continued years later. Most of our students are working while they’re seeking a degree, and balancing work, not to mention family, with their coursework is a continual challenge. Some of our students are also economically disadvantaged, and we have to anticipate that some may not have access to the internet, or own a laptop. We’re always looking for community-based outreach solutions to reach this particular population.
Increasingly, our adult learners are looking for more certification or credential programs–particularly programs that are shorter and can offer flexibility. They’re also more proactive in figuring out how they can take the skill set they’re developing at LCCC directly into the workforce. And if they are already in the workforce, they seek upskilling or upgrading so the shorter and flexible course offerings are seen as beneficial.
How have you adapted your enrollment strategy in response to the challenges facing students?
Ellia At LCCC, we’ve instituted a number of new changes as a result of our partnership with ReUp and the student feedback we’ve received so far. In terms of attracting new adult learners, we have been able to find greater alignment for non-credit to credit programs and really highlight that to prospective students. We’ve also begun reviewing our course offerings, looking for ways to offer shorter programs that run around 7 weeks.
As we grow our returning student population, we’ve dedicated admissions counselors for adult learners. We’re also building a close collaboration with PA Careerlink for workforce development. To make all of this more accessible for adult learners, we’re offering academic debt relief programs and new scholarship opportunities as well.
You partnered with ReUp to support your re-enrollment strategy. What were some of your specific goals in mind before the partnership?
Ellia Before our partnership with ReUp, we had the general goal of increasing our outreach and engagement with stopout students. In order to do this, we knew that we needed to guide students to the general application and admissions steps, as well as do a better job of directing students to resources and departments for assistance. We also wanted to understand why students stopped out to begin with and develop strategies to address challenges.
Can you give some examples of actions you’ve taken as a result of ReUp’s insights?
Ellia As I’ve mentioned, we developed a debt relief program to help access issues. We’ve also assigned financial aid staff to work with ReUp students on SAP or the FAFSA, which has really helped students feel confident in the enrollment process. Offering our students access to ReUp Success Coaches has really helped us to engage in better, more meaningful ways with our students. Furthermore, students also have access to the school’s own success coaches should they need it.
What advice would you give to others who are working towards similar goals?
Ellia If staffing issues are a concern, and the ability to focus efforts on your stopout population, ReUp’s coaching services give great results while helping to meet institutional missions. ReUp Success Coaches’ ability to provide individualized attention to students is paramount to getting them to re-engage with the college. Furthermore, your institution will also gain insightful information on why students stopped out in order to develop effective retention strategies.
Schedule a call with a ReUp team member to learn more about what a ReUp partnership could do for your institution.