LEARNERS

A unique population of adult college students are outperforming their traditional peers at technical and community college across the state, thanks to a new pilot program implemented in the fall of 2018.

The privately funded program, which goes by different names across campuses, seeks to provide greater access to higher education to the 1.1 million working-age adults in Louisiana who possess a high school diploma or less.

“Most policy focuses on how we move more 18 year olds into college. Unfortunately, the skills gap requires we do a better job at reaching back and grabbing adults,” Monty Sullivan, Louisiana Community Technical College System president, said. The program has the same basic requirements of the TOPS Technical Award, but is available to adults, many of whom are working multiple jobs and have family responsibilities.

House Resolution 12, sponsored by Senator Blade Morrish of district 25, authorized the LCTCS to begin the program last year. Morrish said, “It’s just a litany of things that cause them to not be able to get back into the workforce. This gives them the ability to get through those life issues, get back into higher education and enter the workforce.”

When given the funding and tools for higher education attainment, Sullivan said, adult students use their home life as a springboard for success. “These students can learn because they are motivated because of life’s circumstance.”

The average GPA of the 112 pilot students statewide was higher than their traditional peers at 2.81, Sullivan said. Sowela Technical Community College’s “Ready, Tech Go!” students exceeded even that at 3.28.

Pilot students are also returning to campuses between fall and spring at 15 percent higher rate than their peers at 75 percent. Sowela’s retention rate was 94 percent.

Neil Aspinwall, Sowela Chancellor, said the college’s “personalized service” thought its one-stop student services greatly aids in adult students’ success. “We don’t release them. They’ve already been out of school a long time. If you send them away or you put any obstacles in the way, it may not happen.”

Sowela is a key play in the local economy, Aspinwall said. “Just because the jobs are there, they’re not easy to get unless you have some sort of specialized training,” The Sowela Foundation has privately raised $84,000 to equip Southwest Louisiana’s adult learners.

Adult learners are also a part of a national discussion with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Sullivan said. As the pilot program continues in the upcoming school year, Sullivan and Morrish said, Louisiana can be a leader on an even larger scale.

“We see this as an opportunity to meet local workforce demands, state level funding, and once we’ve proven the point, inform the national conversation,” Sullivan said.

For more information on “Ready, Tech, Go!” visit www.sowela.edu. For information on the Sowela Foundation contact Nuria Reyes-Arias, executive director of institutional advancement, at 421-6903.

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