Community colleges adjust for working professionals

A growing number of working professionals are returning to campuses across the nation.

Since the “Great Recession” of 2008, community colleges have sought innovative ways to simultaneously reach wider student audiences and achieve lower costs. American workers are returning to college in record numbers to obtain, finish, or supplement their postsecondary degrees.

Community colleges are responding to their needs by making their programs more flexible. Besides offering online classes, a growing number of schools are scheduling face-to-face classes at all hours of the day and night.

In a move to accommodate a new crop of students consisting mainly of working professionals with standard 9-to-5 job requirements, Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) in South Portland will offer early morning classes at 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. beginning in January. This will mark the earliest course start time in SMCC’s 67-year history. A recent SMCC survey found that 28.5 percent of SMCC’s students work full-time and 42.9 percent work part-time.

“We were really looking at a student population of working students who might be interested in credentials that will be related to the work that they’re doing that will help them to aspire to career advancement,” said Janet Sortor, vice president and dean of Academic Affairs. “This would allow students to take a class before they go to work. We’ve had evening classes for many years, but they’re not always as convenient.”

Sortor cited later working hours and family responsibilities as two key inhibitors when students register for evening classes. Early morning classes should diminish these problems and are “less competition for one’s time,” Sortor said.