A decade ago, community college officials focused most of their attention and efforts on students seeking associate's degrees or transfer credit.
Today, officials say they're beginning to see increases in a different kind of student, demanding different types of programs.
Although community colleges always have catered more to adult students than their four-year counterparts, officials say they are placing greater emphasis on recruiting adult students and working to meet their needs.
“It's never been off the radar,” said Frances Hendrix, vice president of academic affairs at Rose State College.
“I think it's more spotlighted now.”
Particularly among returning adult students, Hendrix said. The college is seeing increased interest in programs that allow students to go to work while continuing their education at a four-year school.
For example, she said, students who enroll in the college's paralegal program can go to work in a law firm when they graduate and use that position to pay for law school, eventually becoming attorneys themselves.
The college's cyber security program has become a popular offering for students who are returning to school either to take extra training to make themselves more marketable or to change careers entirely, Hendrix said. Those students often go on to get jobs at nearby Tinker Air Force Base.
According to a recent study, certificates and other credentials that allow students to work while continuing their education are becoming a more important part of the path to a college degree.
The report, “Career and Technical Education: Five Ways that Pay Along the Way to a B.A.,” was released in September by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.
According to the report, these so-called middle jobs are important for students who hold postsecondary certificates and are seeking college degrees — particularly at a time when four of five postsecondary students work. About 23 percent of students who earn postsecondary certificates go on to earn at least a two-year college degree, according to the study.
The study calls career and technical education “the missing middle ground in American education and workforce preparation,” noting that, while the United States ranks second in the world in the percentage of its workers who holds bachelor's degrees, it ranks 16th in attainment of degrees and certifications below the bachelor's level.