Starting this fall, Westchester Community College will be a part of a national program bringing college classes to older students and their peers. WCC is one of 11 colleges that have been named a Plus 50 Encore Completion Program college this year by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The program helps older students earn credits through courses, receive job training, and earn certificates or degrees in healthcare, education, or social services fields.
Westchester Community College recognizes that learning is a lifelong process. The school has offered non-credit classes for those fifty or older for decades through Mainstream, the Institute for Mature Adults. However, this program differs in that it allows adults that have either never attended college or who are returning after a long absence to take courses with their peers. Courses will be offered on the Valhalla campus or online and provide a supportive environment for their unique peer group.
“This population has been severely impacted by the economic recession, and earning a college degree or certificate can be crucial to keeping current employment or seeking new opportunities,” said Dr. Joseph N. Hankin, President, Westchester Community College. “We are working with AACC to respond to the needs of these mature adults by providing support services for these students and helping to remove barriers to advanced education. We are certain that this expansion will help these individuals reach their educational and career goals.”
The goal of the AACC Plus 50 Encore Completion Program expansion is to reach 100 colleges and 10,000 additional “Plus 50” students by 2015. Those schools designated as Plus 50 Champion Colleges will assist with evaluating and supporting the 100 new Plus 50 Encore Completion colleges as they put in place programs to help baby boomers heading back to school to re-train for careers that give back. Several colleges will also participate in a speaker’s bureau designed to distribute broad information to community colleges about how to work with baby boomer students, who bring unique needs and strengths to college campuses.
The Plus 50 Champion colleges will build on their own experiences from working with the tidal wave of baby boomers turning to community colleges to re-train for new jobs when the economic recession left many unemployed.
Since 2008, the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC has focused much of its effort on training programs to get unemployed older adults back on the job. Lumina Foundation currently funds the participation of community colleges in the Plus 50 Completion Strategy, which is helping baby boomers complete degrees or credentials. AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative began with support from The Atlantic Philanthropies and has grown from an initial 15 colleges.
Westchester Community College is the second SUNY school to receive this designation. WCC joins Monroe Community College and is the third school in the state to join the program.
Emily Schwartz is the Coordinator of Open SUNY Communication and Projects.