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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Illinois Issues: State Hopes To Lure Adults Back To College

"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 is surrounded by her husband Roosevelt Louissaint and their three sons -- Gabe (far left), Elijah and Matthew (front) -- on graduation day.
Credit Courtesy of Ricca Louissaint

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.”
As mom to three boys — two of whom are on the autism spectrum — Louissaint’s list was lengthy: “My children and (their) special needs, and my spouse, and the cat, and the dog, and three fish, and the mortgage, the grass, whatever,” she says.

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.

Dana Papanikolaou wears the gold stole denoting her position as marshal of the English graduates at UIS commencement ceremonies.
Credit Courtesy of Dana Papanikolaou

Papanikolaou, who’s 30, lives in a northern suburban of Milwaukee, and she completed all her coursework from home. The trickiest part was a required communications class, which included public speaking.
“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.”
Nervous and mindful of her audience’s mood, Papanikolaou’s first speech was on the pleasures of living in Wisconsin. It focused on popular festivals and sports teams. But that level of frivolity wasn’t typical of her online education. Class discussions happened through Blackboard,where students were required to post questions and answers. There was no back row in which to hide; participation was required. This format gives students time to research their answers and fosters deeper discussions, Papanikolaou says.

Source: Northern Public Radio: WNIJ and WNIU

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