Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

New College Plans To Bring Students Back

    Seattle University is opening a new college in the fall to focus in on the some 725,000 Seattleites with a partially finished degree.

    Seattle U is one of the few metropolitan universities in the country that does not offer adult completion degrees or have a school for students who have partially finished a college level degree. Students drop out of college for a multitude of reasons, however, degrees often required in today’s competitive job market.

    For this reason, Seattle U has been working to establish a School for New and Continuing Studies (NCS) for the better part of five years—and the project is finally becoming a reality.
    As it stands, only 5 percent of Seattle U students are registered as “part time students.” This is extremely low in comparison to other institutions, especially given the metropolitan environment of the university. Because Seattle U is located in such a populous area, it is abnormal to have as little diversity among the student body in terms of age demographic—the average age of a Seattle U undergrad student is only 20.

    According to an email sent out on May 13 by Seattle U President Fr. Stephen Sundborg, S.J., “The launch of NCS at Seattle University advances our mission and responds to the changing educational and economic environment. The school will educate a population of students who differ from traditional undergraduates—they are older, typically work full-time and many are raising families.”

    The email expressed the university’s desire to “reach out” to historically underserved populations of students—those who have been underrepresented in higher education.

    Rick Fehrenbacher, director of Continuing, Online, and Professional Education (COPE) as of fall 2012. Fehrenbacher is a non-traditional student himself—he dropped out of college to serve in the military before returning to receive his degree. Because of this, he feels particularly close to the need for NCS at Seattle U. COPE differs from the NCS in that the former offers exclusively online classes for adults seeking to further their education. NCS would broaden those opportunities.

    “One of the things we have discovered in our research, is that there are about 725,000 people within thirty miles of this campus who have some level of higher education, but do not have an actual degree,” Fehrenbacher said. “Very often these people find it is difficult to get back into school to finish the degree, and what Seattle U had done is to decide to reach out to this population.”

    In an essay titled “Seven Characteristics of Highly Effective Adult Learning Programs,” Dorothy D. Billington of the John Hopkins School of Education argues that environment plays a key role is successful continuing education. To her, “An environment where students feel safe and supported, where individual needs and uniqueness are honored, where abilities and life achievements are acknowledged and respected” is imperative.

    Fehrenbacher echoed this sentiment, saying that the NCS would be specially designed to accept non-traditional schedules and students. Basically, NCS would be more flexible than other Seattle U colleges in order to create an accommodating environment.

    While the project is relatively young, it is expected to formally open in fall 2015. In the meantime, the board of advisors to the project is working to hammer out details to establish the school within Seattle U.

    “The college will have a dean and all its own faculty. Those are the next steps—those are the processes we’re engaged in now. We’re working with faculty and administrators from across campus to establish the meat of the program,” Fehrenbacher said.

    President Sundborg said in his email that the NCS will work to offer a high-quality Jesuit education designed for working adults.

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