Older students welcomed at technical colleges

March 21, 2013

From rivernewsonline.com: “Nicolet College hosts ‘Return to Learning’ event” — On Thursday night, Nicolet College held “Returning to Learning” an event designed to give adults and others returning to school after being out of school for any period of time all the information they need in order to enroll at Nicolet.

“It’s a great event because they can come to one place and talk to everybody. They can talk to someone about financial aid, career assessment and find out about all the other services we have going on here,” said Nancy Burns, placement specialist and career coach at Nicolet.

This is the fourth “Returning to Learning” event Nicolet College has held since beginning the program two years ago. Nicolet holds the event in the spring and in the fall.

“We try to tailor the event for people who are coming back to school after being out of school for a while,” said Sandy Kinney, executive director of communications and college and community initiatives. “All of the research and studies on people going back is that adult returning learners have different learning concerns than people coming out of high school, so we wanted to do an event that would address what their concerns are and what their needs are.”

Where similar events for high school students are highly structured with presentations and tours, “Returning to Learning” is a drop-in event designed to accommodate the busy schedules of those looking to go back to school.

“Adults are busy. They’re squeezing this in between things, and they need to be able to just come in, get the answers to the questions they need, skip the things they don’t need, and be able to leave again,” said Kinney. “So we set it up in this open time format so people could drop in at the end of the day, after work or after dinner, whatever works for them.”

Kinney said visitors to the event have usually put a lot of thought into going back to school, but they need more answers and information before deciding to enroll. Additionally, the event is a steppingstone for potential students. It begins a dialogue between students and the college, allowing the Nicolet staff to guide the individual through the admission and enrollment process, answering any questions along the way.

“We see people that are serious about coming back to school,” said Kinney. “Research will show that adults typically will take two to three years from the time they start thinking about going back to school to when they actually do it. So we see people at different stages in that process. Some that are just kind of playing with the idea, wondering, ‘What do you have at Nicolet, I know I’m not moving somewhere to go to school…so what do you have?’ and we have that, all the way to people who walk in the door and say, ‘I know exactly what I want. I want to enroll in this program, and can I start this summer?’ So there’s a whole range.”

A variety of Nicolet staff members, including deans, instructors, career coaches and academic advisors, as well as faculty members to help with financial aid and admission questions, were on hand to meet the needs of any individual who stopped in.

Several academic advisors were available to answer questions about coursework, credits and transfer options. The advisors also were able to tell students if they qualified to receive credits for prior learning or work experiences.

Tom Raykovich, a transitions counselor at Nicolet, was available to help answer any enrollment questions potential students might have. Raykovich, who runs the assessment center at Nicolet, said he helps students prepare for placement testing in order to make sure they enroll in classes that match their abilities.

“We take students no matter where their skills are, and we get them where they need to be,” said Raykovich.

This differs from the UW System, where a certain ACT score is usually required for enrollment consideration.

“We test, but just to find out where the skills are, and then we figure out where to place them. It’s an open-door policy,” said Raykovich.

Financial Aid Director Jill Price answered questions students had about financial aid, and gave them advice on how they could pay for college.

“Most of our students, without financial aid, wouldn’t be able to afford college,” she said.”We talk about the options they have and give them information.”

Price stressed to potential students the importance of filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which allows students to be eligible for federal grants and loans. She said students often think they won’t qualify for FAFSA loans and grants, but she always tells them that, “They won’t know until they try.”

Kinney said many of the community members who attend this event eventually attend Nicolet .

“What we do see is that out of people who come to this event, a very high percentage end up enrolling,” she said.

Dean of Trade and Industry Brigitte Parsons said the event is about helping potential students find the answers to all of their questions about college enrollment.

“This is a place where they can come and explore, ask questions, find out, ‘How much money will I make if I major in welding or if I major in nursing?’ or ‘How quickly can I transfer to a university?’ so there’s a lot of questions we can answer on a night like this,” she said.

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