ECSU Breaking Down Barriers for Adult Learners
Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is breaking down barriers that impact an adult learner’s ability to complete a degree. A $50,000 grant from the University of North Carolina System is funding a 10-month task force project in which ECSU will identify how to provide adult learner support services after-hours, along with the best methods of sharing financial aid and scholarship information to help students persist and finish their degrees. Dr. Trina Gregory of the ECSU Office of Distance Education will lead the task force project which will conclude in February 2023.
“While ECSU offers numerous services to assist adult learners, the goal of our task force is to expand programs and develop initiatives to strategically support adult students when they need it, how they need it,” says Dr. Gregory. “Using student feedback, we will enhance our efforts to increase access to support resources to lead our adult learners down the path to success.”
ECSU’s enrollment trends mirror national demographic changes, namely an aging population and fewer working-age adults are leading to a decrease in traditional full-time students and an increase in nontraditional adult learners. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of ECSU’s student population is comprised of adult students, and data from the past five years indicates that, nationwide, nearly half do not complete their degrees.
To help determine the best way to build support capacity at ECSU, the university will conduct focus groups with key administrators and faculty teaching online degree programs. The focus groups will help determine the phases necessary to create a centralized, one-stop information hub for adult learners.
In addition, a university task force will recommend changes to improve a student’s ability to navigate systems that impact retention, persistence, and completion. This team will examine scheduling issues, academic deadline preparedness, and other resources to help adult learners stay on track. The task force will also create a tracking mechanism to match adult learners with specific program advisors.
The Lumina Foundation is the prime awarding sponsor to the UNC System. The funds will support external technical assistance if needed, faculty members working on the project during the summer, as well as training and professional development needed to launch and support programs.
This grant is part of the Lumina Foundation’s ongoing commitment to adult learners. In September 2021, Lumina awarded ECSU $175,000 as part of its HBCU Adult Learner Initiative.