UIS Perspectives: New Year’s resolutions for adult learners

·4 min read
Vickie Cook
Vickie Cook

University of Illinois Springfield has enjoyed a long history of helping transfer students find pathways to degree completion. These pathways have led many students across central Illinois and beyond to meet career goals, improve quality of life, and increase educational attainment. Setting a New Year’s resolution to consider a degree completion opportunity is a great way to usher in 2022.

Two out of three jobs demand at least some level of college education according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that the median earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree were 57% higher than the earnings of individuals who have completed a high school degree.

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Eighty percent of students who have attended a community college have indicated they are interested in completing a bachelor’s degree. Research studies have shown that students who transfer from a community college to a university experience higher future wage earnings. Completing an associate degree at a community college and transferring into a university also assists students with the overall reduction of the cost of college. The net effect of lowering college costs and increasing labor market returns through future salary earnings are very attractive for students. Students who have been enrolled in college-level courses after graduating from high school are those who are ready to move toward completing a bachelor’s degree through a transfer option.

The Illinois Articulation Initiative is a statewide agreement that is designed to encourage students to transfer credit between participating institutions. Credits that are included in the IAI agreements are lower-division general education core curriculum. Additional credits may be transferred in certain major areas of study. IAI has provided Illinois residents with the ability to more easily move credits from one institution to another for the purpose of completing certificate and degree programs of study for over twenty years.

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University of Illinois Springfield provides strong support for transfer students through award-winning academic programs, financial aid counseling, advising, and career services. The Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment reported that students who complete an associate degree, transfer to a four-year public university, and complete a bachelor’s degree within 6 years report the highest earnings and the lowest cost of education. Additionally, those students who have attended both a community college and public four-year university in the same county report higher levels of educational success.

As the No. 1 public regional university in Illinois and No. 4 in the Midwest (2020, 2021, 2022), the University of Illinois Springfield takes great pride in assisting transfer students with understanding how to finance a college education. In 2021, the university was recognized as No. 5 in the Midwest for students graduating with the least amount of college debt. Alums from the University of Illinois Springfield comprise 28% of the college-educated workforce residing in Springfield.

There are several opportunities for adult learners to take charge of their college processes while working toward their degree completion goals. To be a successful transfer student, consider these five New Year’s resolutions:

1. Resolve to understand how to finance your education. Are you Pell Grant eligible? Are you eligible for scholarships? Understand the difference between scholarships, grants, and loans. Take advantage of employer funding for college completion. Set up an appointment with a financial aid specialist early in the process before you are ready to transfer.

2. Resolve to understand the degree you are seeking. Do your homework to know if the degree you are working toward will lead to the career goal and pathway you have set for yourself.

3. Resolve to work with a university academic adviser to understand which credits will transfer and how to maximize the credits you have previously earned.

4. Resolve to work with a university counselor to determine the right course load for you. Do you have a family, a full-time job, volunteer responsibilities? Can you be successful in one class, two, or three? Understand the university’s definition of a full-time student as there are financial aid and cost implications.

5. Resolve to develop a support network among friends and family and on campus to assist with the areas that you may find yourself needing during your degree completion journey such as tutoring, study support, library support, transportation, and child/elder care.

Students who are looking to improve their overall earning potential, have more stability in health care and live a socially active lifestyle that includes actions such as voting, exercising, and seeking volunteer opportunities in the community should consider completion of a bachelor’s degree. Through transfer opportunities, a bachelor’s degree is an attainable opportunity for most adults at any age. Consider setting your New Year’s resolutions to include becoming a successful transfer student.

Vickie Cook, Ph.D., is UIS executive director of online, professional and engaged learning.

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: New Year’s resolutions for adult learners

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