On Sept. 30, Southern Adventist University announced an upcoming Adult Degree Completion Program on its social media platforms.
According to the social media posts, “In Tennessee alone, more than 900,000 adults have attended college but never completed a degree.”
Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication Rachel Williams-Smith played a pivotal role in the development of this program. Having previously helped Oakwood and Andrews Universities with similar initiatives, Williams-Smith was asked to join the project.
The program is aimed at adults aged 25 and above who were once in college but never completed the requirements to graduate. In order to be eligible for the program, they must have earned a minimum of 24 college credits. The program is designed to be flexible in order to reach those who have a full-time job or a family.
“This program allows [participants] to work on their degree while still maintaining their obligations,” Williams-Smith said.
The Adult Degree Completion Program is an accelerated academic format. Some courses could be eight weeks long depending on the major, according to Williams-Smith. In order to make it accessible for those who have a busy schedule, the program can either be blended or fully online.
“We are setting this up so maximum flexibility is possible based on people’s needs” Williams-Smith said. “In multiple ways, this meets Southern’s mission and vision.”
Aside from that, the program is expected to be affordable for students looking to quickly complete their degrees. According to Williams-Smith, “The pricing will be competitive with that of other Adult Degree Completion Programs around, about $372/credit hour, which is 40% of the current regular tuition.”
Director of Center for Teaching Excellence Cynthia Gettys said the planning process began in the fall of 2014 when she was asked to chair a committee that would look into developing the program . In April 2016, the university Senate voted to move forward with the program.
In order to determine what programs should be offered, the university has created a survey to see what those in the community are interested in pursuing. Director of Graduate Marketing Laurie Gauthier’s primary role has been conducting market research for the program. The survey has been distributed to local businesses and churches. Almost 150 surveys have been completed, but Gautheir would like more participation.
“Launching a new program is a lot of work, especially for a program that is so different from anything Southern has done previously,” Gautheir said.
The number of programs offered under the Adult Degree Completion Program is still to be determined. The School of Business’ program is pending as they are finalizing their curriculum, says Williams-Smith. According to the survey, this is the program that is most sought after. The two programs for which curriculums have been approved are Integrative Studies and Communication.
Pending the approval of the accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the university anticipates opening the Adult Degree Completion Program in fall 2021 and offering the first courses in the unique degree programs in January 2022, according to Graduate Dean Tyson Hall.
“It is my prayer that the Lord will send us an experienced, visionary director to lead out in the delivery of the Adult Degree Completion Program,” Gettys said.