Laura Bray decided to pursue her master’s degree in 2002, she was
working full time for Milwaukee’s Department of City Development and
juggling a heavy extracurricular schedule. But the urban redevelopment
advocate recognized that an MBA was necessary to advance her career,
so she enrolled in Marquette University’s accelerated MBA program.
"I only had
class once a week so it seemed doable," Bray says. "It was
intense, but I knew it wasn’t forever."
Whether it’s a
master’s or an undergraduate degree, more and more older adults are
discovering that accelerated degree programs are an excellent
opportunity to return to school without totally disrupting their work
or family commitments. The average age of students in accelerated
programs is 33 to 38 years old.
Milwaukee area colleges like Concordia University have offered
accelerated college programs since the late 1980s, the concept has
grown increasingly popular in recent years.
one of the primary reasons nontraditional students are pursuing
degrees through an accelerated program, according to Ann Rice,
director of Concordia University’s Green Bay Center.
the students in our accelerated program work full time," says
Rice. "They’re married, they have kids. They have other
responsibilities, and an accelerated program more easily aligns with
lead enrollment adviser for the College of Adult and Graduate Studies
at Wisconsin Lutheran College, agrees.
Lutheran’s accelerated program was designed specifically with
working adults in mind," he says. The college began offering its
accelerated degree completion program three years ago, which allows
working professionals to complete a bachelor’s degree in business
management and leadership in as little as 20 months.
Eggers says the
majority of students enrolled in Wisconsin Lutheran’s accelerated
program are pursuing their degree to improve their opportunities for
career advancement or to expand job prospects beyond their current
field of expertise.
current economy has motivated a lot of people," he says.
"People who have been laid off are retooling in an effort to
re-enter the workforce."
accelerated degree program breaks down the material covered in a
traditional semester-long class over a four-to-six-week period for
undergrads, or six to eight weeks for graduate-level courses. While
classes only meet once a week, typically for four hours, there is a
great deal more work beyond the classroom, from reading and writing
assignments to online discussion forums.
students in our accelerated program to expect 15 hours a week in study
time outside of the classroom," Rice says.
enrolled in accelerated degree programs can expect to complete their
bachelor’s degree within 15 to 24 months, depending on their major
and the number of credits they need to graduate. Those enrolled in an
accelerated master’s program can finish in as little as 12 to 18
timetable appealed to Mark Gimla, a teacher for the Elmbrook School
District, who earned his master’s in instructional technology from
Cardinal Stritch in 18 months.
"It was so
convenient," says Gimla. "I don’t know anybody who goes
through a traditional program anymore."
Since they first
became available, accelerated degree programs in the Milwaukee area
have grown to encompass a variety of majors from business
administration to criminal justice to human resources. More recently,
local colleges and universities have begun expanding their accelerated
curriculums to include health care-oriented majors like health care
management and RN-to-BSN programs.
feedback from prospective students, we’re looking at expanding our
accelerated program to include majors with a health care focus,"
another reason nontraditional students choose accelerated degree
programs, says Judy Borawski, director of graduate admissions for
Mount Mary College.
accelerated courses are offered one night a week or on
Saturdays," she explains. "It gives students the flexibility
to work through the program at a pace that matches their schedule and
also offer students enrolled in an accelerated degree program the
option to take college courses online.
Lutheran, students in the accelerated program can complete all of
their credits in an online environment or choose a combination of both
online and classroom courses. Concordia University offers a similar
programs are definitely designed with the working adult in mind,"
says Rice. "The coursework is tailored to the needs and
capabilities of the adult learner."
like Concordia and Cardinal Stritch University also have satellite
campuses in outlying cities like Waukesha and Kenosha, as well as
neighboring states including Iowa and Minnesota.
class off-campus at Pulaski High School in Milwaukee, which was a
shorter commute from his Milwaukee home than Cardinal Stritch’s
Glendale campus. (The university has since opened a satellite campus
really reach out to people," Gimla says.
college programs, accelerated programs allow students to transfer
previously earned credits to help reduce the overall number of credits
they need to graduate. But, accelerated degree programs also value
real-world experience, allowing students to convert learning that
occurs outside the classroom into college credit. Students must
demonstrate the knowledge they’ve gained from volunteer and
on-the-job experiences by documenting their learning through a
portfolio process, Eggers explains.
"We place a
strong emphasis on direct application of the course material to the
students’ career," he says.
portfolio process varies from school to school, it typically involves
submitting professional training documentation, writing life
experience essays and attending portfolio workshops.
great way for students to earn their elective credits," says
requirements for accelerated degree programs also vary among area
colleges and universities. At Mount Mary College, students must be 24
or older with two years of full-time work experience. There’s no age
requirement for enrolling in Wisconsin Lutheran’s accelerated degree
completion program, but students must have 50 transferable credits,
two years of professional work experience and a grade point average of
2.0 or higher. Most schools require prospective students to complete
basic math and writing competency assessments to make sure they can
handle the coursework they’ll encounter in their accelerated
our students to have those core competencies so they can complete
their coursework," Rice explains. "Otherwise, we encourage
them to enroll in an intro level mathematics or writing class so they’ll
be better prepared."