Going back to school isn't necessarily a full-time endeavor. Especially for working adults with families and lives full of activity.
Central Lakes College has stepped up its commitment to "opportunity for all" as directed by President Sally Ihne in her final three months of leadership at the Brainerd and Staples campuses.
CLC is adding liberal arts courses at its Staples campus and expanding its Distance Learning opportunities to accommodate working adults. The effort is aimed to boost enrollment from communities where drive time and expense are a major consideration.
"If you can't get to the campus in Brainerd, where most of CLC's liberal arts classes are based, the college will come to you," said Kelly McCalla, director of academic services.
Marla Michaels of Pierz has taken classes from Central Lakes College that are offered in Little Falls. Already employed in the field for which she is trained, Michaels concludes her two-year CLC education this month after taking courses such as Abnormal Psychology taught by Tom Ersfeld in Little Falls. Here, she is in Brainerd, while other students are with Ersfeld in Little Falls and still others are linked by interactive TV in Long Prairie, Onamia and Isle.
The fall schedule, available as students began registering for the term that starts Aug. 27, includes 22 different general education courses taught in 25 sections by CLC instructors at Staples.
Scheduling also accommodates the after-work population in Little Falls, where 10 courses are set to start at 4:30 p.m. or later in addition to an array of daytime offerings to serve students of all ages. Little Falls Community High School is the site for these college courses.
"We're trying to assist those who are working toward degrees, perhaps intending to transfer to upper division schools for bachelor's degrees," said McCalla. "Our Distance Learning objective is to make higher education accessible and to fit reasonably into the lives of our students."
Dozens of working residents in the region earn college credits by attending classes in Staples and other hometowns nearby. Interactive TV has enabled students of high school age and beyond to reduce drive time and, in some cases, tuition expense (through the post-secondary enrollment option).
"We even have a program that allows most adults to take their first class for free," said McCalla.
CLC is connected via ITV and with instructors in classrooms in high schools such as Little Falls, which Community Services Director John Holbrook calls "essentially a branch campus."
Besides Staples and Little Falls, CLC is connected via ITV to schools in Long Prairie, Isle, Onamia, Pierz, Royalton, Upsala, Swanville and Holdingford.
"I've enjoyed my classes in Little Falls," said Marla Michaels of Pierz, who earned her associate in applied science degree and already has been hired as a medical secretary. She took general psychology and abnormal psychology, two popular courses taught by Tom Ersfeld in Little Falls.
"They were not required courses for my degree, but they were interesting," Michaels said.
Ellen Nieken of Hillman, business manager for the Onamia School District, is a working mom and honor student at CLC. "I have taken psychology and business management classes in Little Falls but most in Onamia over ITV," said Nieken, who is also a grandmother. She will receive her diploma from CLC on May 16.
Louise Flickinger of Motley is among many women of non-traditional-age who benefited from the college initiative to offer classes at convenient times and in formats suited to working lifestyles. She graduated from high school 20 years ago and for the last three years has earned credits through CLC for the associate in arts degree she'll receive in 2001.
Flickinger has a 3.8 grade-point average. She said of her experience with distance learning, "It works for me." Ethics, an Internet offering, is one example. "If you are a self-motivator and work well independently, you'll do fine online."
She has taken courses over ITV at the Staples campus and attends one of the new weekend courses, intercultural communication, held on the Brainerd campus one Friday night and one Saturday each month.
When she finishes the summer term in July, Flickinger will begin scheduling classes for her bachelor's degree. CLC and four-year schools, such as Southwest State and the College of St. Scholastica, continue to develop ways to provide university-level degrees in Brainerd. The trend is expected to continue.
"We rotate the mix so that a person can get the AA degree in as little as two years, same as a student who is on campus," said McCalla. "Our increased liberal arts offerings at Staples, as well as more Web-based courses, benefit those who just can't get to Brainerd."
Students in many area communities benefit from the outreach.
Kay Olson, 36, Aitkin, said the Distance Learning program has made a positive difference. She works at Grand Casino Mille Lacs. She also takes college classes there.
Going to college is easier than she thought.
"I had been nervous about going back to school, especially since it is college, being among what I thought would be a bunch of kids," Olson said. Turns out she's among many of her generation, and the "kids" range in age from 18-50.
"Age doesn't make any difference," she said. Now, studying accounting and business, the former beautician is earning academic honors while holding a full-time job. "Teachers make the difference. Good ones really help."
Olson, who is among 14 students in the marketing principles class CLC offers at the casino, said the classes offered in Aitkin have also been convenient. "Two hours twice a week would be better, but a lot of us adults are doing our best with the four hours one night per week (Composition I)."
In addition to its ITV and Internet courses, CLC has initiated Brainerd campus "weekend courses." This fall, the online offerings include subjects such as critical thinking, philosophy, American government and computers. Weekenders include introduction to literature and personal growth and behavior.
Each student must consider many factors when choosing a class with so much independence and self-guidance. A student with the maturity and discipline required for collegiate academics will benefit, said McCalla. To learn more, call him at 855-8184.
Course schedules for summer and fall are available at either the Brainerd or Staples campus, or by calling Admissions in Brainerd at 855-8037 or 1-800-933-0346 (extension 8037), or in Staples at 894-5175 or 1-800-247-6836 (extension 5175). Registration for new CLC students opened April 30.
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