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A national program to help students age 50 and older returning to college train for new jobs has reached its goals two years ahead of schedule and is revving up to help more people.
Nearly 9,300 student baby boomers were assisted in the last two years by the 18 colleges participating in the Plus 50 Completion Strategy, organized by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Forty-six percent of those students—4,243 of them—completed degrees or certificates over the last two years.
“We are delighted to see the colleges assisting so many adults age 50 and over who are going back to college to re-train for new jobs and re-invent their careers,” said Mary Sue Vickers, director of the program at AACC.
Vickers and the college staff are planning to assist even more people over the next two years. The four-year program is funded by Lumina Foundation.
Grants available to start Plus 50 Encore Completion Programs
Regarding the program’s success, evaluators cite several factors in a new report. The colleges involved in the program nearly doubled the number of workforce training courses available for baby boomers in the second year of the project. Baby boomers took courses in accounting, business administration, criminal justice, early childhood education, health information technology, human services, mechanics technology, computer support, nursing, pharmacy and phlebotomy.
Colleges used a number of outreach and support strategies to help students succeed. They worked across college departments to help students access specialized services, such as career and academic counseling. They held open houses and informational meetings for potential students and sponsored career fairs.
Key support services provided for students included offering “completion coaches” to assist students in reaching their education goals, helping students apply for and receive financial aid, offering computer skill-building courses and career development workshops, and forging linkages with employers.
Organizers say the evaluation bodes well for the remaining two years of the project. AACC is currently accepting grant applications from member colleges to participate in a new project that will train 10,000 older workers for new jobs in education, healthcare and social services.
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