Louisiana is expanding its efforts to ease the process for adults to return to college and for community college students to seamlessly transfer to universities.
The Board of Regents is growing its websites for the Center for Adult Learning, nicknamed CALL, and for the new Transfer Degree Guarantee program.
“We want to be the definitive source of information for higher education in Louisiana,” said Jim Purcell, the state’s new commissioner of higher education.
CALL started more than three years ago, but it is just beginning to expand more statewide after initially operating only as a pilot program within Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and Bossier Parish Community College.
Now CALL has expanded to Southeastern Louisiana University, McNeese State University and more with 20 online degree programs offered overall.
Likewise, the Transfer Degree Guarantee for the Louisiana Transfer Associate Degree started last year to ensure students can start at more affordable community colleges and automatically transfer to universities after earning their two-year degrees, Purcell said.
Schools like Baton Rouge Community College and LSU have their own partnerships like the Bears 2 Tigers transfer program, but the statewide Transfer Degree Guarantee sets up a statewide system for students, said Karen Denby, Regents associate commissioner for academic affairs.
The Transfer Degree Guarantee website features a brand new “transfer course guide” that allows people to see exactly which courses will transfer from which colleges.
For instance, the website shows that the “poetry and drama” English 215 course credit at Baton Rouge Community College would transfer successfully to LSU as one of two university English classes.
“The goal is to generate as many ways as possible a student can transfer and get his bachelor’s degree,” Denby said. “The key is efficiency and seamlessness.”
The plan is to rapidly expand the transfer degree program after quickly rolling it out last year, said Meg Casper, Regents associate commissioner of public affairs.
“It was kind of like building the bike as you rode,” Casper said of doing the marketing and implementation simultaneously last year. Now, the academic programs are set and the school guidance counselors are much more knowledgeable on the topic, she said.
In the first year of the program, there were 544 transfer degree students over seven community college campuses this spring, Denby said, although a majority were at Delgado Community College in New Orleans.
While improving the transfer process is a long-term fix for higher education, Purcell said, CALL is focusing on boosting the economy now by educating adults and getting them back in the workforce.
“To me, that’s the quickest return in our investment,” Purcell said. “It really is trying to get to the people who can impact your economy now.”
Not counting senior citizens, Louisiana has more than 625,000 residents with some college experience, but no degree.
There are roughly 1 million more who have completed high school but do not have any college experience, according to the Board of Regents.
CALL requires its program to be offered online, to have mostly accelerated classes, and to offer learning assessments and student support services, said Larry Tremblay, Regents associate commissioner for planning and research
“There might be some courses they can test out of or get credit for,” Tremblay said of the learning assessment process.
CALL degree programs range from a criminal justice bachelor’s degree program at McNeese to the RN to BS in Nursing program at Southeastern.
Thus far, CALL programs have graduated nearly 400 students.
The new Project CALLBACK — the recruiting arm of CALL — is focusing on residents who completed at least half of the college courses before leaving school.
The Board of Regents is working with Acxiom global marketing corporation to track down the latest contact and personal information for those who are deemed the best candidates to return to college. The goal is to help people better themselves, Tremblay said, even if it does seem “big brotherish.”
The CALL website also features “readiness” testing to help people determine if they are prepared to succeed in online college classes, Tremblay said.
“A lot of times the online students are the most motivated, because they’re self-motivated,” Purcell said.
He said the new slogan is, “Pick up where you left off.”
“Let’s get them reinvigorated in coming back to college,” Purcell said.