As part of the University of Georgia System‘s goal to ensure 60% of Georgia’s adults have some sort of postsecondary degree by 2025, the state is turning its attention to adult learners, reports Martha Dalton for WABE.
Right now, just 42% of adults in Georgia hold a postsecondary degree, according to Complete College Georgia. And the state can’t count on younger students to close the gap, says Tom Harnisch, the director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
“Adults have to be part of the equation,” says Harnisch. “The math just doesn’t work. There’s just not enough traditional-age students out there for states to educate that will help them reach those ambitious attainment goals.”
Non-traditional students currently account for about 15% of all students enrolled in the University of Georgia System, and many of these students face more barriers to graduation than their peers. This is especially true for student-parents, writes Dalton. He adds that roughly a third of low-income student-parents graduate from college within six years.
Clayton State University, Columbus State University, and Georgia Southern University are collaborating with childcare nonprofit Quality Care for Children to create a program called Boost that both subsidizes childcare for low-income parents who have returned to college full-time and helps them find high-quality childcare centers.
“So, we’re really looking at, ‘well, if you help them take care of their kids, does that boost that graduation rate?'” says Deborah Deckner-Davis, a psychology professor at Clayton State University. “And does it kind of change that trajectory?”
Thirty-one-year-old single mom Genesis Appiah returned to college full-time to pursue a degree from Clayton State and credits Boost for her ability to juggle the demands of both college and parenthood. “It was completely overwhelming,” she says. “Being over 30, and starting college again, when my classmates…they don’t have a 2-year-old crying in the back when they’re trying to do their homework.”
“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” she says of the program. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.” Brittany Marks, another student-parent at Clayton State, says that without Boost, she might not have been able to graduate. “Boost gave me somebody else on my side,” she says.
But while the program removes the stress of finding affordable childcare, there’s still work to be done in supporting adult learners, says Deckner-Davis. “It’s not as if it eradicates all the complications in their lives, because being a student is hard in and of itself, and being a parent is hard in and of itself,” she explains. “So I don’t want to suggest that this is some sort of fairy tale scenario. They’re still working very hard” (Dalton, WABE, 12/7).