Happy Anniversary to the School of Continuing & Professional Studies!
SCPS Celebrates 20 Years of Educating Adult Learners
In the early 1990s, Chestnut Hill College was quite a different place than you find today. Of course, the Sisters of Saint Joseph were here and the institution and its people were the embodiment of the Mission — just as they are now. However, the creation of the SugarLoaf Hill campus wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eye, nor was Fitzsimmons Hall, McCaffrey Lounge, the Gulati Complex or Martino Hall.
Athletically, CHC was part of the NCAA Division III. In 2007, it became reclassified to Division II and became a member of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC).
And of course, CHC in the early ’90s was an all-women’s school. Going coed in 2003 changed the makeup of the campus and made CHC’s tradition of excellence and history of success available to a wider audience. Creating the School of Continuing & Professional Studies also expanded that audience.
The genesis of SCPS
A few years prior to the turn of the century, CHC hosted two programs from Allentown College in Room 15 in Clement Hall. At that time, CHC awarded bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees only to young women of traditional college age. A Continuing Education Department did exist, offering opportunities for mature women and men to work toward their undergraduate degree.
When the Allentown College programs faltered, CHC saw an opportunity to extend its existing curriculum and welcome new students into a newly created Accelerated Division. The program would comprise two eight-week sessions per semester and three semesters per year. So one year in the Accelerated Program was the equivalent of three traditional semesters.
Kathleen Rex Anderson, Ed.D. ’66, was named the Dean of the Accelerated Division, a position she held until 2002.
“In the beginning it was quite challenging, doing a full year’s schedule, hiring the appropriate faculty, doing market studies to see what majors would fit into our current courses and deciding how to expand,” Anderson remembers.
The first courses — Business Administration and Criminal Justice — began in January 1996 and over the next five years, five new programs were offered. Accounting, Human Services, Childcare Management, Eldercare Management and Social Gerontology.
The market for adult students was a growing one, and various models for alternative education to meet this need were springing up around the Philadelphia region. Anderson and fellow deans from nearby institutions made presentations around the state explaining the value and importance of accelerated programs for adult learners.
“You’re 40 and still in college?”
Even though a stigma around being an adult in college was beginning to disintegrate, it was not as common then as now. So why did adults choose to study here?
“Our students appreciate the convenient schedule of evenings and weekends,” explains Elaine Green, Ed.D., dean of SCPS. “It is more doable for adults with full-time jobs and families and it is oriented to adults, meaning it simply has a more practical, different approach.”
Although it was never assumed that incoming students had already earned an associate’s degree, many had earned credits at other institutions and wanted to transfer them to a degree program. Local advertising was done to explain the program, and all the while, faculty were being hired, curricula formulated and refined, connections were made with regional businesses to offer tuition reimbursement or discounts to their employees, courses were offered on campus and at three off-site locations. Prospective students took notice.
“The first six years of success of the Accelerated Program was a direct result of institutional support from many offices and the dedicated staff,” says Green.
Shortly after the turn of the century, the Accelerated Division became the School of Continuing & Professional Studies and CHC became a charter member of Graduate! Philadelphia, a local organization that helps adults return to college and earn a degree.
“Graduate! Philadelphia was like a movement,” says Green. “More than 75,000 people in Philadelphia with some college education but no degree were identified. The goal was to help them get those degrees, and all of a sudden the stigma was gone and people were talking about getting their degrees. Enrollment increased. “They didn’t mind the fact that they might be 40 and still in college.
“People began to recognize that an educated workforce was good for the economy, communities, families and schools. Good for everybody,” she adds.
In the last four years, SCPS has added four new off-site locations; began offering hybrid and online courses; found a new audience in military veterans when CHC was designated a “Military Friendly” school; and expanded its tuition discount program to include more than 10 local organizations in addition to the existing articulation agreements with two-year and community colleges.
Today, 13 programs of study are offered, with Human Services being the most popular with 224 declared majors last year. As of September, Social Gerontology has been reinstated as a major because of the increased number of older adults in the country and the adult students who see possible career opportunities in this demographic.
“It is truly awesome that our accelerated programs through the School of Continuing & Professional Studies remain competitive over 20 years,” says Anderson, currently CHC’s Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty.
In May 2016, 169 students graduated from SCPS, bringing the total in the last five years to more than 1,000. The bulk of faculty are adjunct instructors who “are passionate about the work,” says Green. “They love working in human resources and teaching it at night, for example.”
“These numbers represent individuals who have taken the steps to learn and grow and through their accomplishments have helped to strengthen local families, communities, organizations and institutions,” says Green.
“SCPS graduates are successful in their personal and professional lives. Some have completed graduate degrees at CHC or at other colleges or universities. Others have changed careers or advanced in their positions. They include small business owners, teachers, accountants, police officers, human service professionals, substance abuse counselors, childcare specialists, attorneys, adjunct instructors, marketing and management professionals — to name a few.”
Read the full story of the history of CHC’s School of Continuing & Professional Studies in the fall 2016 issue of the Chestnut Hill College magazine.
— Brenda Lange
This story originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Connections. To read more from that issue, click here.