Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Economy leads to career changes

Adults go back to school BY TENA LEE/Staff • February 24, 2009 When Lisa Evans’s grandmother fell ill last year, she was struck by the warmth and compassion of the hospital’s nurses. “I just saw what a difference they can make in a person’s life,” said the 39-year-old Hendersonville resident. It was that desire to make a difference coupled with a rising need for nurses in a faltering economy that sent Evans - who already has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree under her belt - back to college this spring. Evans – who’s taking anatomy and human growth development courses at Vol State with the hope of getting accepted into TSU’s nursing program in the fall – is among a growing number of students returning to community college campuses such as Gallatin’s Vol State. According to Vol State Spokesman Eric Melcher, spring enrollment at the local community college is up 7 percent, setting a record for the school. Melcher noted the largest demographic at the college is still 18-to 20-year-olds. However, students like Evans are becoming more and more common. Economy playing a role Melcer believes the economy is playing a role in the school’s increase in enrollment and in the larger number of students who are returning with previous degrees. “We are seeing more students who already have degrees,” Melcher noted, attributing the interest in some fields like healthcare to an uncertain economy. “They are looking for areas that are experiencing growth instead of contracting,” Melcher added. “Healthcare is one of those fields.” “We do see quite a few students who have bachelor’s degrees,” said Vol State Admission Specialist Judy Hendon. Hendon says many are looking for a career change, particularly to the allied heath fields such as radiology and physical therapy. “We are seeing folks who have been laid off or are expecting to be laid off,” she said. “But many just want to improve their skills and protect the job they already have even more.” Union University’s Hendersonville campus, which holds classes at First Baptist Church of Hendersonville is seeing similar trends, according to its executive director, Charles Lea. The college started holding classes last fall and offers a master’s degree in Christian studies and a master’s of education degree. Union’s students often fall into two categories, Lea noted: students wanting to make a career change altogether, and those wanting to expand or improve on their current profession. The school is also looking into offering an accelerated nursing program at a medical facility off-campus, Lea added. “The economy is driving an interest in a new nursing program,” Lea said. “Many see the long-term viability in their profession as not good and want to get into a more stable field.” Lea also noted the economy has also had an opposite impact on the school: four or five prospective students have chosen not to pursue their education further because they simply can’t afford it at this time. Evans nervous about fitting in For Evans, the career change has more to do with wanting a fulfilling career that suits her growing family’s demands than economics, since hers is the family’s second income. She said she was nervous at first about going back to college after being out for so long. “I was concerned about balancing my family with needing to study again,” Evans said. So far she’s managed to maintain an A average in both classes. Evans added she was pleasantly surprised to not be the only “older” student and that she feels accepted and even appreciated among her peers. “We all have different perspectives,” she said, “and that adds to the whole academic experience. Everybody’s very accepting. I haven’t felt out of place at all.” Melcher hopes more older adults are encouraged by Evans’s experience. “It’s why a community college exists,” he said. “We help people reach their goals at any age.”

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