AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative Develops National Standards of Excellence to Help Colleges Better Serve Baby Boomers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Programs and services for baby boomers at community colleges nationwide will get a boost, thanks to efforts by local Richland College staff, who recently attended the third annual conference for the Plus 50 Initiative at the Washington, D.C., headquarters for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Community college staff, including Mitzi Werther, Director Emeritus Program and Teresa Love, Outreach Coordinator of Richland College attended the two-day meeting, where they helped develop Standards of Excellence that will be shared with community colleges around the country.
The standards are much-needed. Enrollment continues to soar at community colleges with baby boomers seeking to train for new careers, upgrading their skills, or trying to “recession-proof” their resumes.
It’s not uncommon for plus 50 adults to encounter a range of obstacles when going back to college. They often must navigate a college admissions system designed for high school seniors, not people with 35-year-old transcripts. And they must decide on a path of study that will lead to a new career and re-cultivate study habits left behind decades ago.
“Community colleges have long offered continuing education and job training programs. Many colleges are helping unemployed plus 50 workers expand their skill sets and re-invent themselves for new careers,” said George Boggs, AACC President and CEO. “With the Plus 50 Initiative, colleges are offering accelerated courses, computer training, job fairs, and advising services tailored to the needs of plus 50 students.”
The Standards of Excellence will offer community colleges practical advice on how to improve programs and services for baby boomers. The standards will be published online later this year and shared at the AACC national convention in 2011.
At Richland College, based in Dallas, Texas, staff is reaching out to baby boomers with computer classes designed specifically for mature adults. These classes are offered at a variety of times including afternoon, evening and weekend.
“One idea we shared at the conference for the Standards of Excellence was our successful Volunteer Connection Fair held in partnership with AARP Texas,” said Teresa Love, Outreach Coordinator. “This event helped bring together mature adults with community agencies with volunteer opportunities. “We hope to continue to expand the Plus 50 Initiative throughout the region using the resources provided by the AACC.”
They were joined at the conference by 40 community college representatives from around the country. Their efforts are part of a three-year, nationwide initiative launched in 2008 by AACC with funding support from The Atlantic Philanthropies. The initiative announced its expansion from 15 campuses to dozens of additional affiliates in June 2009 and added 32 more colleges in April 2010.
For 90 years, the AACC has been the leading advocate for the nation’s community colleges, which currently number more than 1,173 and serve close to 12 million students annually. Its membership comprises 90% of all public two-year colleges — the largest, most accessible, most diverse sector of U.S. higher education. As institutions committed to access, community service and lifelong learning, community colleges have long-focused on the needs of adults who are already in the workforce, many of whom are seeking new skills and knowledge for changes in their lives and careers.
To learn more about the Plus 50 Initiative, visit http://plus50.aacc.nche.edu. To learn more about the AACC and The Atlantic Philanthropies, visit www.aacc.nche.edu and www.atlanticphilanthropies.org.