Mississippi State University has added a college for non-traditional students who are older than typical enrollees to its campus.
The Center for Distance Education and the Center for Continuing Education joined forces to create the College of Professional and Continuing Studies. The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees approved the new program on May 18.
Former Center for Distance Education Director Susan Seal is the college’s first dean. She said many employees from both centers have filled roles at the new college.
“We’re built off the infrastructure that already exists with two units that primarily focus on adult learners,” Seal told the Mississippi Free Press. “So, obviously, there’s some transition in meshing those two together, but it’s kind of an extension of what we have been doing.”
About a year ago, the Center for Distance Education had an “idea discovery” where employees identified ways to meet students’ needs, gain new students and grow educational opportunities for non-traditional learners. After reviewing her notes from the discovery, Seal said MSU “needed a new college.”
“We need to be able to develop programs that are more applied in nature that don’t really fit in another college and be able to work with the industry and have that flexibility to maybe meet different needs than what Mississippi State already provides,” Seal said.
Seal described the average student the college would cater toward.
“Many of our online students in particular are working adults. Our average age is about 32, and many of them have children,” Seal said. “And so, the needs that they have are very different than an 18-year-old, 19-year-old, more traditional student.”
Seal mentioned conversations she had with Provost David Shaw and other campus leaders, where they looked at higher education from a global perspective to see what industry standards MSU needed to meet.
The College of Professional and Continuing Studies is established on three pillars: academic, non-credit and student support. There will be bachelor’s and master’s programs, along with nine-credit courses and no-credit classes.
Seal said the college aims to offer some non-credit courses later this summer and the full
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