A program aimed at helping working adults continue their jobs while going to school is marking two years in business, and it’s growing.
Cañada College’s Working Adults program only requires students to attend class one night a week and on Saturdays to accommodate students’ work schedules. Twenty-seven students enrolled in the first class, called a cohort, in 2011. That grew to 31 in 2012 and now boasts 60 new students for this year’s classes, which began Aug. 22.
“The program offers the flexibility students need to be successful given the challenges they have managing work, family and school responsibilities,” said David Johnson, dean of Cañada, located in Redwood City.
Participants earn a degree in interdisciplinary studies, with an emphasis in social and behavioral science and/or humanities. It prepares students for a variety of careers related to education, law, social work, business and politics, according to the school. The program is funded by Measure G, the parcel tax for community colleges passed in San Mateo County in 2010.
Johnson said in terms of class offerings for the program, the curriculum has been reworked and reshaped. The school has added more hybrid classes, which are classes that meet face to face part of the time, with the other part being online.
Johnson said meeting in person works as a support group for students, while it also makes it easier on their students. The program doesn’t require every student to take the same number of units, but students average about 10. There are currently 15 classes in the program per fall and spring semesters offered to students, with two offered during the summer.
The program’s curriculum is set for the same time each semester, classes are guaranteed and students enter in a cohort with other working adults. That structure is exactly what Michael Piccoli of San Francisco was looking for when he enrolled in the program’s first cohort in 2011.
“The fact that the curriculum is pre-planned to help you obtain your associate’s degree is great,” Piccoli, 42, who commutes daily to Palo Alto to work at the Stanford Neiman Marcus store, said in a statement. “There’s no thinking involved about what classes you need to take to fulfill your degree requirements.”
Cañada College is the only college in the San Mateo County Community College District to offer this program. Former Cañada vice president Sara Perkins began Cañada’s working adults program and ran a similar one in Missouri.
Jeri Eznekier, project director of program, said every semester the school adds another cohort and six more classes. She noted that the program is predominately female and Hispanic.
“You don’t have to be a working adult to attend,” Eznekier said. “We have stay-at-home moms and the majority of students are over age 35. These students are bound and determined to get degrees before they retire.”
The selling point for San Jose’s Sandra Floyd, a mother of four who works for San Mateo County, was that she could work full-time and go to school because the professors were being hand-picked specifically for this program and they understood students are working adults with families and responsibilities. She was part of the first cohort in 2011 and enrolled after not having attended school for 22 years.
Floyd said it was a little nerve racking at the beginning but it became easier as she met classmates.
“The cohort allows you to meet and bond with people you might have never had the opportunity to meet,” she said in a statement.” I personally have made friendships with some of my classmates that will remain even after we move on from this program.”
For the class graduating this spring, half of students have 3.0 grade point average or higher, according to Eznekir.
“These are professional people who have been in the work force and are very focused on getting their degrees.”
Students come from as far north as San Francisco, while others live in San Jose or the East Bay.
Classes are held on Thursday nights and every other Saturday. The first cohort will graduate this spring.
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