UW is fifth in US for older Undergraduates

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Cheyenne, Wyo. - The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ranked the University of Wyoming fifth in its “Flagship Institutions With the Highest Percentages of Older Undergraduates” list, using data from fall 2015.

Meeting the needs of older and returning students is an important aspect of UW’s mission to provide accessible education.

According to the list, under 8 percent of all undergraduate students at the 50 flagship public institutions in the United States were 25 and older, but five flagships had an undergraduate population that was more than a fifth age 25 and over. At UW in the fall of 2015, 2,179 undergraduates were age 25 and over, making up 21.7 percent of the undergraduate population.

The Chronicle’s list may be found at www.chronicle.com/article/Flagship-Institutions-With-the/242233.

“Access and opportunity to complete a degree at the University of Wyoming are available to students across a wide variety of ages, backgrounds and educational experience,” says Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Kyle Moore. “We have a commitment to education and are excited for everyone who chooses to attend UW.”

Gov. Matt Mead recently signed an educational attainment executive order. The goal for Wyoming’s working population age 25-64 years is to have 67 percent possess a valuable postsecondary credential (certificate or degree) by 2025 and 82 percent by 2040. UW offers innovative programs that will help meet this goal, and the university was named one of “The 12 Most Innovative Colleges for Adult Learners” by Washington Monthly in fall 2017.

“I think that a number of UW programs offered through hybrid and online modalities appeal to our post-traditional student population,” says Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Anne Alexander. “Programs that allow our students flexibility to re-enter into higher education even when life becomes quite complex have been a hallmark of UW for a number of years and have great potential to continue to grow. Through online bachelor’s completion programs, such as the Bachelor of Applied Science, criminal justice and psychology, we are able to serve our post-traditional age population well.”

This was the case for Casper firefighter and Battalion Chief Jerod Levin, who finished his Bachelor of Applied Science in organizational leadership degree this past summer.

“Really, for anyone in a chief role in the fire service, a bachelor’s degree is starting to be required,” he says. “This option was flexible to fit my schedule. I had the ability to do the online courses, whether it was early in the morning or late at night or during the middle of the day.”

UW’s efforts to seamlessly welcome transfer students also help meet the needs of older and returning students. In fact, nearly half of UW’s incoming class each year is made up of transfer students -- a much higher number than most flagships.

“Graduation rates for our Wyoming community college transfers with 60-plus credit hours are at 72 percent now, one of the highest rates of success for any student population,” says UW Director of Transfer Relations Mary Aguayo.

“The emphasis we have on program articulation and pathways to completion with our community college partners is a huge factor,” Alexander says.

Current student Amy Leavitt retired after 20 years of active duty in the Air Force, transferring to UW with her associate degree.

“It’s really been a great process,” she says. “UW has transitioning courses for veterans. It really helps you feel welcomed.”

Leavitt also finds UW’s Veterans Services Center to be a great resource.

“As older students, we know what we want in life,” she says, adding that she feels her opinions are valued here. “It’s a very welcoming environment and a great place to be.”

Leavitt is majoring in business management, with an emphasis on entrepreneurism. Based in Cheyenne, her husband also is a UW graduate.

“Once you’re a student here, you’re always part of the UW family,” she says, noting that this strong sense of community is one of UW’s strengths.