Looking for good universities for baby boomers who need to work.
May 8, 2007 10:14 AM   Subscribe

What decent universities exist for baby boomers who need a degree but have to keep working?

My friend, 58, wants to go back to school. She has an ancient AA degree from a community college in the SF Bay Area, and currently lives in Los Angeles. She has some money (enough to buy a house, but not enough to retire) and a decent job, but nothing that keeps her tied to LA.

I know a lot of people are immediately asking "Are you certain that college is for her?" In her case, for more reasons than I'll go into here, it is. She's older, so she only has a certain amount of time to work until retirement, but sometimes there are more important things than money.

However, such a limiting factor can't be ignored. I'm basically looking for the following:
- Some major university/ies (not Harvard, but I've heard that University of Phoenix is as worthwhile as DeVry) that offers courses appropriate for working professionals
- Advice on who we should talk to about admissions (obviously, the admissions office, but I'm concerned that they're geared only towards 18-year-old high schoolers)

Location doesn't matter; I'm casting this net nationwide. Cost doesn't matter too much. I'm just trying to get an idea of where someone might be able to take classes nights and weekends or online towards a real, worthwhile degree. Her career as a highly-paid professional doesn't allow for too much flexibility in work schedule, so I need to find a school with a flexible schedule.

I should also mention that difficulty is not an issue. If it's realistically possible for her to get in with an old AA degree and plenty of recommendations, she will, and she'll excel.
posted by Pacrand to Education (17 answers total)
Is she looking for online degree programs, or does she want to move to an area near a university and take classes in person?

A number of major universities now have online degree programs. Stanford is the most prestigious that I know of. If she's looking to move, most major universities have night/weekend programs designed for working/non-traditional students. Many of them will be called something like "School of Continuing Education." Call the university she's interested in and ask.

Oh, and if she's interested in Harvard, the Harvard Extension School offers both in person and online classes to nontraditional students.
posted by decathecting at 10:21 AM on May 8, 2007

You say that she "needs" a degree, but that "there are more important things than money", implying that it isn't for work. So what kind of degree are we talking about here? "Real, worthwhile" doesn't really give me an idea. She can get a "real, worthwhile" degree in basketweaving from anywhere if she just wants to keep her mind and social life active. She can get a "real, worthwhile" degree in medicine from only a few places if she wants to quit marketing and start helping people. I think we need more guidance on what she's looking for.
posted by DU at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2007

What does she want to major in?
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2007

Almost anywhere I would think. The school that does not have an online or after-hours program is a real exception these days. Certainly NYU.
posted by xammerboy at 10:28 AM on May 8, 2007

I don't know a ton about it, but a friend of mine goes to Washburn Rural University in Topeka, KS and says that they have a lot of "non-traditional" students. So I would assume they provide some of the services you mention. I can't personally tell you much about it, but perhaps she should look into it a bit more.

I go to the university of Minnesota, and I've actually had a fair number of students who are older than your "typical" college student in some of my classes. If she chooses a fairly large major, she would probably be able to take all the classes she needs at night, since there will be a wider range of class schedules. If she wants a business degree, our business school has a very large number of working people who attend classes at night, as I understand. It also has a fairly good reputation. I would expect a lot of schools in large urban areas to have a fair number of night classes in order to attract some of large numbers of working people looking to go back to school.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:34 AM on May 8, 2007

In my area, a lot of schools offer programs for older and/or non-traditional students. I've known quite a few non-traditional undergraduate students - universities generally know how to handle this sort of thing. Plus more and more schools are offering more flexible part-time programs since they understand that not everyone can just stop working to get a degree. I think she could try to identify what she's interested in studying, find a school that has strengths in that area, and go from there. It would probably be easiest to start locally.
posted by ml98tu at 10:35 AM on May 8, 2007

University of Maryland University College is one that has been mentioned before for similar questions. At least from my experience in the DC area, UMUC degrees, while not Harvard, were not looked at the way degrees from U. of Phoenix were.
posted by needled at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2007

In San Francisco, one of the schools that is well designed for adult (working) students is Golden Gate University.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:40 AM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I got my degree from the College of General studies at Penn, which I (half-jokingly) refer to as Penn's ex-drop-out program. It's geared toward adult students and offers a tremendous discount on tuition (it was actually the cheapest 4-year program available to me in the Philly area). To get the discount, you have to take most of your courses at night, but once you've declared a major, you can take day classes necessary for your degree at the same low-low price as the night classes.
posted by qldaddy at 10:41 AM on May 8, 2007

Seconding what major, seconding night/online/extension programs. If she applies to any of the latter, the admissions department definitely won't be geared to the 18 year old set. Working adults are who use those programs, and who they're geared for. If she's interested in a traditional day program, on the other hand, she should be talking to Transfer Admissions (because she has more than 1 year of units, she'll automatically be a transfer even though she's not enrolled anywhere now) and ask them them what "adult re-entry" services are available.

Since the degree plans seem wide open, it would help to know whether any degree would do. Does it have to be a bachelor's (for instance to fulfill a work requirement), or would a second associate's okay? There's such a diversity of things she could learn at minimal cost and one nights/weekends at a California community college. They also are well prepared to support working adults' needs. And admissions is like a 20 minute process, tops. If education for its own sake is the goal, that's an option worth considering. Especially true if she's interested in starting a very different field -- do all the prereqs and lower division classes cheaply at a cc then transfer to a univ for the remainder.

If she stays in LA and doesn't need much financial aid, Antioch University is a pretty non-traditional school (no grades!) that specializes in bachelors and masters for working adults.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:53 AM on May 8, 2007

I'm having trouble understanding being both a highly paid professional without much flexibility in work hours and the ability to relocate anywhere in the country. So I am going to suggest another scenario that I've contemplated myself.

If she has enough money to buy a house in LA, I'd suggest moving to a smaller town with a decent state university (often a land-grant institution), buying a house (rents are often high, while housing is cheap by LA standards), work part time (people might be willing to accomodate someone with great experience) and go to school as close to full time as possible.
posted by Good Brain at 11:08 AM on May 8, 2007

Portland State University -- especially the School of Business. There's certain degree programs, such as Supply and Logistics Management, that are held entirely at night. Almost half of the student population is "older than traditional students"...
posted by SpecialK at 11:17 AM on May 8, 2007

Pitzer College in Claremont, CA (If she decides she wants to stay in LA) has a program specifically for non-traditional students called the New Resources Program. It's great because the students take the same classes as everyone else (with small classes, lots of one-on-one time with professors, and a traditional, learning-for-the-sake-of-learning liberal arts degree and access to courses and activities at the rest of the Claremont Colleges), but the New Resources program provides extra support for students who have been out of the classroom for awhile.
posted by paddingtonb at 11:47 AM on May 8, 2007

Antioch is a good suggestion. UCLA and the other major schools in LA have extension and specialized programs for continuing education. Tell us what her interests are and we can offer better advice...
posted by DudeAsInCool at 12:20 PM on May 8, 2007

whoa, stay away from Antioch College. It's 500 white kids with dreadlocks in the middle of nowhere Ohio. Not very friendly for a working professional.

Antioch University, of which I know little, supposedly has online courses, but so does every school nowadays.

It's very hard for someone in their 50's to enroll in a traditional undergraduate degree. Just listening to 18 year olds talk about the world with such a sense of knowledge is enough to drive any sane adult out of any class.
posted by willie11 at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2007

I would expect a lot of schools in large urban areas to have a fair number of night classes in order to attract some of large numbers of working people looking to go back to school.

Schools like, for example, Augsburg, just a couple of blocks off the U of M campus? They market themselves very heavily toward "non-traditional" adult students. I think they might have more adult students enrolled now than "traditional" 18-22 students.

Augsburg is small and manageable, but still a "real" college, nice people, right in the middle of Minneapolis, and you can walk to Wilson Library at the big Univ. of Minnesota across Riverside Avenue if you want to.

Getting a weekend degree there can be done in a few years, maybe very few if you can transfer in credits, take CLEP tests, maybe even get credit for previous career experience.
posted by gimonca at 6:57 PM on May 8, 2007

She might want to check into the Open University's various degree plans.
posted by syzygy at 8:25 AM on May 15, 2007

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