They’re older. They’re working. They’re raising a family.
And even though their planners are already penciled in, they’re going back to school to finish or start a bachelor’s degree.
Universities have taken note of these students, and they’re putting out the welcome mat.
“If you missed going right out of high school, it’s not too late,” said Marilu Goodyear, associate vice chancellor at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus in Overland Park.
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The KU Edwards Campus has adapted by offering bachelor’s degree programs with classes that meet in the evening for those who work during the day. A partnership has been forged with Johnson County Community College as well to allow dual enrollment in some degree programs.
Park University has long been known for reaching out to nontraditional students in a variety of ways, including campus centers on military installations nationwide and in other settings away from the 142-year-old Parkville campus and more accessible to working students.
Locally, Park has almost a 50-50 split between students of traditional college age and those 23 and older at campus centers in Parkville, downtown Kansas City and Independence. A Lenexa location is scheduled to open in the fall.
Across the county line in Liberty, nontraditional students are few at William Jewell College, where recent high school graduates live in residence halls on campus and graduate in four years.
Yet in 2003, the college recognized a growing need in industry and an interest among older students in a bachelor of science in nursing degree. A program tailored to the student who already had a four-year degree was created — allowing the nursing degree to be completed in a 12-month or a 16-month accelerated program.
“These students had the traditional college experience when they were younger and are now more determined,” said Leesa McBroom, chairwoman and associate professor in the department of nursing. “They have quit their jobs to become full-time students again.”
Chad Tomme, upperclass student in public administration, KU Edwards campus and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park
By day, Chad Tomme, 26, is a recruiter with Spencer Reed Group in Overland Park.
By night, he is a college student taking three evening courses on the KU Edwards Campus and one night course at Johnson County Community College this semester.
Tomme is also a husband and father with a wife and 8-month-old twins at home. Juggling family, work and educational commitments “has been a crash course in time management,” he said.
In his household, studying happens “after the babies are down and the dogs are fed and walked — around 10 p.m. to midnight.”
Tomme is participating in the degree partnership program between the two schools, which allows students to be enrolled concurrently at both places. With the student’s major in mind, advisers from both schools help students plan the courses they’ll need so all credit hours will count toward the degree.
Tomme transferred into the partnership program with credit hours from a community college in Mississippi and from the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, North.
In the fall semester of 2015, he started as a part-time student by attending community college classes three nights a week in a course that compressed a full semester into a half semester.
Last August, he worked for the Johnson County Election Office and said he developed a better understanding of government. He is considering a master’s in public administration.
When charting his course to become a full-time student in January , Tomme’s adviser told him that if he carried a full load and passed everything, he would graduate in the spring of 2018.
He is on track to do just that — with a record of all A’s except for a B the summer the twins were born.
Part of what appeals to him about the degree partnership program is the small class size — ranging from five to 10 or so students. As he has progressed from electives to core classes, he has found classmates at the KU Edwards Campus often 10 to 15 years older and working in the field.
“They bring a wealth of real-world experience to the discussion,” Tomme said.
Jan DeMoure, senior in nursing, William Jewell College in Liberty
Jan DeMoure, 39, graduates in May with a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree from William Jewell College and a job waiting for her at a nearby hospital.
DeMoure said she always wanted to be a nurse: “I like helping people.”
But earning the degree seemed daunting until she heard about the 12-month accelerated nursing program at William Jewell. “If it’s just one year, I can do it,” she told herself when she enrolled in May 2016.
DeMoure took the traditional four-year route earlier in life when she earned a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy in 1999.
“It’s a lot easier going back,” she said. “I look forward to class.”
DeMoure spent much of her career in health care settings and had a chance to observe nurses caring for patients.
That experience strengthened her resolve and convinced her that she could become a nurse. The appeal of the compressed program motivated her to enroll.
To be accepted into the program, DeMoure updated her knowledge in science and nutrition with classes at Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods in 2014.
When DeMoure isn’t on campus, she’s juggling her schedule with that of her husband and the care of their four boys ranging in age from 4 to 14. Fortunately, her husband has been able to work flexible hours while she has been a full-time student.
After she passes the national licensure exam to become a registered nurse in June and begins working three 12-hour days, DeMoure expects the household to settle into more of a routine.
Lisa Sack, junior majoring in social psychology at Park University in Parkville
Social psychology, explained Lisa Sack, is the study of how the individual and the group affect each other.
In her classes at Park University, discussing this concept often leads to the sharing of personal experiences.
And Sack said she waits until others have had a chance to talk because she knows her experiences differ from those of her younger classmates.
At 28, Sack said she is usually the oldest student in class. She is married, has three children, and her parents are no longer living.
Stability was lacking at times throughout her childhood. Sack dropped out of high school at 17, earned a GED in 2006, worked in a small-town bank, married at 18 in 2007 and now has three children: a 10-year old son and 8-year old fraternal twins.
When she and her husband prepared to move away from St. Marys in Kansas, “I realized I need an education to hold down a job in a bigger city,” Sack said.
Like many nontraditional students, community college played an important role in getting Sack where she is today. Before enrolling at Park in 2014, Sack attended community college in Lincoln, Neb., and was able to transfer 50 credit hours to Park.
Yes, she agrees, she is a nontraditional student, but “I’m the first one in my family to go to college; so, I don’t know what to compare it to.”
She attends classes during the day while her children are in school.
Tackling her homework comes at the end of the day after she’s helped her children with their homework and they are tucked in bed.
But it’s not all textbooks and tests. Sack has enjoyed some of the perks of younger students by being involved in clubs and activities on campus.
In 2016, Sack was named Outstanding Class Member for the junior class, and she served as an officer in two clubs that received Student Organization of the Year awards: Business and Investment Club and Psychology Club.
Tyler O’Neal, senior in information technology, University of Kansas Edwards Campus in Overland Park
College was not in his plans when Tyler O’Neal graduated from Raytown High School in 2004.
O’Neal had always envisioned his future in the family’s construction business, where he had enjoyed working part-time since he was 15. After graduation, O’Neal joined his father in the business, and “then the recession hit in 2008,” O’Neal, 30, said.
By mid-2009, the recession was taking its toll on the construction industry, and O’Neal decided to pursue his interest in technology.
In 2010, he started working as a product support specialist in the call center of Garmin International Inc. in Olathe.
In 2012, he began taking classes full-time at Johnson County Community College, and the associate degree he earned there allowed him to advance to his current position as software engineer tool support developer in 2016.
To move up the ladder, O’Neal needed a bachelor’s degree in information technology. At first, he looked into classes on the KU campus in Lawrence where he was living with his wife and son. But day classes weren’t a good fit with his work schedule.
Fortunately, the classes he needed were offered at night Monday through Thursday at the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park. Classes start at 4 p.m. and at 7 p.m. Some semesters, O’Neal has been in class from 4 to 10 p.m. and at work at 7:30 a.m.
He enrolled at the KU Edwards Campus as a junior in the summer of 2015 and is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in May.
With the degree in hand, O’Neal will apply for the position of software engineer at Garmin.
Eric Fecteau, graduating senior, Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park
Although Eric Fecteau, 18, is going to college after he graduates from Blue Valley West High School in May, he is not following the traditional timeline.
Fecteau plans to earn a four-year degree in three years.
In fact, he’s already started.
Fecteau accumulated 30 college credit hours in high school courses.
He will earn six more credit hours this summer and will carry 15 credit hours fall semester at Johnson County Community College.
In the spring semester of 2018, he will take classes at the community college and at the KU Edwards Campus and will complete requirements for an associate degree.
After that, all of his classes will be at the KU Edwards Campus, and Fecteau will finish in the spring of 2020 with a bachelor of business administration.
You might say Fecteau plans ahead — way ahead.
“He started a Roth IRA when he was 15, and he asks for no presents for his birthday or Christmas,” said Julie Fecteau, his mother. “He wants money instead so he can invest for his retirement.”
From high school graduation in 2017 to college graduation in 2020 — what Fecteau is doing is called Degree in 3 — three years to earn a four-year degree.
The program is a partnership between the KU Edwards Campus, Johnson County Community College and the Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission school districts.
Fecteau has two older brothers in college at different campuses. Fecteau has helped them move, has gone with his parents to visit them and has concluded that “the dorm experience doesn’t interest me.”
Fecteau will continue to live at home in Olathe where he can run his business nine months out of the year: Cutting Edge Lawn Care.
He started mowing lawns when he was a sophomore and now has 65 customers who depend on him for landscaping, aerating, mowing and snow removal.
A bachelor in business administration ... just makes sense, doesn’t it?