Val Seward has a “fix-it” mentality. When she sees a problem in her community, she wants to do something about it.
But to make a greater impact in her community, Seward knew she'd need a college degree. So two years ago, she enrolled in classes at Rose State College.
Although the experience was intimidating at first, Seward got support along the way from an Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education program designed to encourage students like her.
While she was a student at Rose State, Seward enrolled in Reach Higher, a state program that works with working adult students who have some college credit but no degree. The program is designed to connect those students with the resources they'll need to complete college.
Seward lives in northeast Oklahoma City. There's “a lot of lack” in her neighborhood, she said. There aren't many community centers or other places for people such as her teenage son to go after school, she said. She'd like to open a center in the community, but she didn't know how to get started.
So Seward enrolled at Rose State, initially intending to complete her general education requirements and then work her way into the college's criminal justice program. But she heard about a similar degree offered through Reach Higher. She applied to the program and was accepted.
Access to classes
The program works as a kind of consortium of 14 state colleges and universities that offer in-person and online courses geared toward working adults. The program is geared toward students who have some college credit but dropped out before completing, said Debbie Blanke, the State Regents' associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.
The program gives students a way to go back to college without disrupting their lives, Blanke said. That's especially important for students who live in rural Oklahoma and can't move or commute for college.
“If you're in Durant, you can't just drive up to the city for a class,” Blanke said.
The program offers two-year and four-year degree programs. Part of the program's goal is to help students take courses from several different institutions without needing to drive all around the state, Blanke said.
For example, if a student at Murray State College needed a course that was only offered at Connors State College, he or she could take the Connors State class online without needing to drive to the college's campus in Warner.
Access to advisers
The program also offers advising services that are geared toward working adult students, said Sheila Smith, the state Reach Higher coordinator.
Returning to college is a major decision for many of the program's students, Smith said, and it can be an intimidating experience. Advisers work to help allay students' fears and walk them through the process.
Now a student at the University of Oklahoma, Seward said the one-on-one advisement she got through Reach Higher helped her make it through Rose State. The advisers didn't assume students already knew how to navigate college life, she said. They were also accessible, even at odd hours, she said.
That level of flexibility is critical for nontraditional students, who are often balancing school with family or work, she said.