Phoenix Challenges Colleges to Change JU Now Offers Lifelong Learning to Appeal to Adults Who Work

Article excerpt

In the old days, universities waited for students to come to them.

Jacksonville University never had to shop its degree programs around town, never had to set up information booths in company foyers to lure the working adult.

No more.

The arrival in Jacksonville of the for-profit University of Phoenix, with its aggressive advertising and marketing strategies, has forced more traditional schools to drop the staid approach.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at Jacksonville University.

The private university, founded in the waning days of the Great Depression, has a lot at stake. In recent years, the university has expanded its programs aimed at working adults, a market that could represent its greatest opportunity for enrollment growth.

About 630 students are enrolled this year in part-time undergraduate and graduate programs. Within three or four years, President Paul Tipton expects an enrollment of 1,000 non-traditional students.

"That's where we will see the university grow," he said.

Administrators plan to borrow a few tricks from Phoenix in what they say it does best -- marketing and advertising its programs.

Under Tipton, weekend and after-hours programs aimed at working professionals were expanded to include an accelerated degree program for people seeking undergraduate degrees in business.

The ALLEGRO Program -- Accelerated Lifelong Learning Educational Growth and Reward Opportunity -- is aimed at people 25 years or older, who have at least three years of work experience, but were stymied in earlier attempts to earn a bachelor's degree.

Like Phoenix, the courses meet one night a week, for four hours, in either a five- or eight-week format -- about half the traditional pace. Credit can be awarded for life experience, as well as for previous college courses.

This style puts the program in direct competition with the University of Phoenix, a school established in Arizona in 1976 that has since expanded nationally. In March 1998, it opened a Jacksonville campus, where 750 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.

Its strength is its focus on the working adult, said Jodie Ploessl, campus director. Unlike other universities, Phoenix concentrates on this market.

"Adult education is all we do," she said. "For the last 20-plus years, it's what we've done. …

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