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AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative Develops Standards to Help Colleges Better Serve Baby Boomers

July 13, 2010

Programs and services for baby boomers at community colleges nationwide will get a boost, thanks to efforts by local St. Louis Community College (STLCC) staff who recently attended the third annual conference for the Plus 50 Initiative at the Washington, D.C., headquarters for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

STLCC staff members Heather Ellison, Plus 50 program coordinator, and Stephanie Graham, Plus 50 program associate, attended the meeting, where they helped develop standards of excellence that will be shared with community colleges around the country.

The standards are much-needed. Enrollment continues to soar at community colleges, with baby boomers seeking to train for new careers, upgrading their skills, or trying to “recession-proof” their resumes.

It’s not uncommon for plus-50 adults to encounter a range of obstacles when going back to college. They often must navigate a college admissions system designed for high school seniors, not people with 35-year-old transcripts. And they must decide on a path of study that will lead to a new career and re-cultivate study habits left behind decades ago.

“Community colleges have long offered continuing education and job training programs. Many colleges are helping unemployed plus-50 workers expand their skill sets and re-invent themselves for new careers,” said George Boggs, AACC president and CEO. “With the Plus 50 Initiative, colleges are offering accelerated courses, computer training, job fairs and advising services tailored to the needs of plus-50 students.”

The standards of excellence will offer community colleges practical advice on how to improve programs and services for baby boomers. The standards will be published online later this year and shared at the AACC national convention in 2011.

STLCC staff are reaching out to baby boomers with the Plus 50 Re-Inspired Transitional Workshops, Plus 50 Re-Wired Employment Seminars and short-term job training programs to get displaced workers retrained and re-employed.

“One idea we shared at the conference for the standards of excellence was the importance of specifically targeted programs to meet the needs of our Plus 50 students,” Ellison said. “We hope to see a growth in interest and support for the Plus 50 student, worker and volunteer through these efforts.”

They were joined at the conference by 40 community college representatives from around the country. Their efforts are part of a three-year, nationwide initiative launched in 2008 by AACC with funding support from The Atlantic Philanthropies. The initiative announced its expansion from 15 campuses to dozens of additional affiliates in June 2009 and added 32 more colleges in April 2010.