Friday, November 12, 2010

Degree Completion: The New Center

Thirty-seven years ago, Charter Oak State College was created to help adults return to college and finish their degrees. The founding idea of the College was that a degree represented a set of learning outcomes and abilities—like being able to write an argumentative essay or to analyze a set of data—and there are a variety of ways to demonstrate those competencies. So the College validated learning using formal tests, portfolios, courses from other accredited colleges and even learning that occurred at work.

Colleges like Charter Oak that specialized in degree completion -- and there were only three such institutions at the time -- were called college credit aggregators.

Today, America is at the threshold of a post-secondary education revolution. It is becoming clear that the global economy requires its workforce to attain skills and learning beyond high school. That is true for the plumber, the computer programmer, the financial analyst. It is true for everyone. If America wants to keep up with its competitor nations, it must produce one million more adults with bachelor's degrees each year for the next 20 years. In other words, Charter Oak would be required to increase its graduate output by about 1600%. Clearly, that is not likely.

So the Lumina Foundation -- an organization dedicated to helping people achieve their potential through success in education beyond high school -- has funded a series of proposals across the higher education landscape that will try to move degree completion from a singular challenge involving one student and one special institution to an assembly line. One funded initiative involves the state of Minnesota which maintains a database of 150,000 Minnesota residents with some college credit but no degree. The initiative was funded by Lumina to move as many of these people as possible into the degreed column.

I tell you all this as a way of pointing out that Charter Oak is no longer an outlier with an unusual or esoteric mission. Adult degree completion has become the new center. It is an absolutely critical part of the higher education landscape as America works to develop all of its intellectual talent. In effect, we have to find ways to support everyone's learning. We cannot afford to waste a single human talent set.

So it will not surprise you that Charter Oak is growing. We just passed our all-time, highest enrollment, and we show no signs of slowing down. Nor should you be surprised that we are working diligently to improve our efficiencies so we can do our part in converting more "adults with some credits" into "adults with degrees."

What may surprise you is that we are not alone. All across the country, there is a new focus on serving adults who have earned college credits but not their degrees. We are proud to be an institution that has worked on this challenge every day in all of our 37 year history.


  1. A wonderful institution at that! Charter Oak has the best teachers and the best staff!

    Sandy O'Connell

  2. Charter Oak is a good school to attend and complete your education. It worked for me over the traditional atmosphere which does not consider non-traditional students as an asset but a liability.

    The funds I used to obtained an education at a traditional college in my opinion was wasted. I finished at Charter Oak College, the best decision. The professors are well learned, and well the administrative staff can keep improving. However, it was the best decision I have made.