VWCC’s focused and professional examination of culture, processes, and inclusive strategies in service to adult learners.
Like other community colleges, VWCC has seen a decline in public support, enrollments, and revenues along with underwhelming outcomes, especially among underserved and adult learners. President Sandel is determined to reverse this situation, and his vision led the college leadership team to begin the work of becoming a more adult learner-focused institution.
The average program-placed VWCC student age is 25. 66% of students are adult learners, age 20 and older. 68% of all program-placed students are part-time.
VWCC Data (2019-20)
“The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected us all, but it has had a disproportionate impact on individuals who struggle to make ends meet during the best of times. Now we will have more opportunities to help these people find their pathway to the middle class through higher education.”
Virginia Western is working closely with national education reformers the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and Achieving the Dream (ATD).
Informed by data and best practice, this Title III Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) promotes the continued transformation of VWCC to better serve adult learners – the new majority in higher education – especially adults from low-income backgrounds. Working closely with national education reformers including the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and Achieving the Dream (ATD), the college has begun to assess, pilot, and bring to scale best practices, promising services, and innovative positions to Refocus Education on Adult Learners (REAL). The resulting college model will be more relevant and better prepared to serve adult learners, students from low-income circumstances, and all students in a more effective fashion.
It should be noted that Get REAL does not signify less interest in traditional students. It is, however, a rejection of the notion that VWCC can simply look to dual-enrolled high school students, or recent high school graduates, to fulfill its mission. Adult learners typically present as working parents, veterans and military personnel, caregivers and other adults with competing demands in their lives that affect their ability to balance work, family and education. There is no one blueprint for refocusing a community college on adult learners, but CAEL’s research and resulting work regarding Adult Learner Focused Institutions (ALFI) provides a framework on which Get REAL will rely. ATD will provide technical assistance and coaching to support the integration and implementation of this framework here at VWCC.