"Illinois needs more college-educated workers and can't meet
that goal with traditional students. Here's what some schools are doing
to attract adult learners." continues Northern Public Radio: WNIJ and WNIU.
Ricca Louissaint spent 10 years in college without earning a degree. It wasn’t that she didn’t take college seriously. Like many moms, she just couldn’t untangle herself from more urgent obligations.
“Life happens, and you just function and do and provide,” the South Holland resident says. “Sometimes you’re not on the list anymore. And I really wasn’t on the list anymore.”
So she attended South Suburban College in South Holland only part-time. Dabbling in art, photography and humanities courses, she regarded class time as her “little vacay” from the stresses of home life. “Although I did have a dream to be a college graduate. And most people who knew me had no idea I wasn’t.”
Her chance came accidentally in 2011, when she was helping her oldest son, Gabe, enroll as a freshman at South Suburban. Noticing flyers for a new “dual degree” program, Louissaint asked if her son was eligible. The counselor told her that Gabe didn’t yet qualify — students need 12 hours of credit to apply — but mentioned that Louissaint actually did.
Next thing she knew, she was in the express lane of higher education. Louissaint was assigned a “transfer specialist,” who helped her choose classes to fill the gaps in her academic record. Within a year, she had earned an associate’s degree.
Her grades in the dual degree program gave her automatic entrance to Governors State University, where her credits counted and she earned a full-tuition Honors scholarship. By December 2014, she had earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
And she’s not done. At age 46, she’s studying for the LSAT exam and will attend law school...
Dana Papanikolaou earned her associates degree and was halfway through her junior year of college when chronic health problems derailed her academic career. Eventually, she decided the best way to continue her education would be online, and she spent months looking for a reputable university offering a bachelor’s degree in English. It turned out there weren’t many schools that met her criteria. University of Illinois’ Springfield was the only one out of the schools three campuses that did.
“Because it was an online course, and not a course on campus, you had to videotape yourself giving the speech, and find a way in this video to prove that you’re speaking in front of a certain amount of people,” she says. “So I wrote the speeches, and I went over to the corner tavern, and I stood there and ... gave the speeches.”