Press and Media
Statewide program focuses on adult learners
SHREVEPORT - Three years ago Brenda Plater thought going back to college would take too much time. A working wife and mother of two school-aged children, Plater had doubts.
"I can't do that," she said. "I don't have time."
After a coworker talked about accelerated classes at Bossier Parish Community College, she looked into it. She found the CALL program and hasn't looked back since. Plater, 36, is one class away from an associate degree in business and is currently studying for her occupational and patient therapy assistant degree.
"For working mothers it's awesome," she said of the program.
CALL, the Center for Adult Learning in Louisiana, has helped adult learners earn a college degree since 2007. The now-statewide program was piloted in Northwest Louisiana through Northwestern State University and BPCC. The program now includes six colleges and universities.
CALL allows students to complete their courses within a few weeks and online, making it extremely flexible for the participants. In addition, the program gives college credit for experience the students may bring to their education.
After several years in existence, the program is shaping the conversation on higher education by catering to the new face of the college student, the adult learner. Luke Dowden, who was at BPCC, is now the executive director of the statewide program. He has seen the program grow from the beginning and can see the need for it. In the past four years, the program has graduated 372 students statewide.
According to the U.S. Census, 32 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds have a high school diploma. However, 34.9 percent of the population 25 and older have a high school diploma and 20.3 percent have some college experience.
"You can't grow higher education with the current typical students," he said. "There are not enough high school graduates."
The program has collaborated with the Louisiana State University Life Course and Aging Center to study adult learners. The study painted who the average CALL student was, Dowden said. Overall, the average student is older, has children and makes an income less than $30,000.
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