Spoon River College Expands Effort to Re-Educate, Retrain Older Learners

CANTON, Ill. – For baby boomers who started college and began working toward a degree or certificate but didn’t finish, community colleges are revving up a new grant-funded initiative that will help them reach their dreams. Spoon River College was among 11 colleges recently selected by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to participate in the Plus 50 Completion Strategy.

The colleges involved with the initiative will strive to increase the number of students age 50 and up, especially those with some prior college credits, to complete credentials and degrees that will help them get hired. The new completion effort builds on AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative, which has devoted the last three years to helping colleges improve services and support for baby boomers.

“The 50 Plus Completion Strategy program is a perfect fit for SRC,” said Carol Davis, Vice President of Community Outreach. “With our Retirees Leading Initiative and the college’s commitment to the Complete College America program already established, we anticipate helping a great number of people 50 and over complete those certificates or degrees they began but never had the opportunity to finish. We are very excited to be a part of this elite group of community colleges nationwide and look forward to learning best practices to implement.”

AACC President Walter G. Bumphus underscores the advantages of helping older learners continue their education. “When minds expand, options do, too. Learning is one of the best ways to stay and feel young, and community colleges are increasingly providing more support and services tailored to meet the needs of older students who want to come back to school,” said Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of AACC.

“If you started a degree or certificate and then stopped, or you are thinking about starting a new course of study, now is a great time to come back to community college,” said Bumphus. “Coming back to college can help you upgrade your skills and make you more competitive in the job market.”

The credentials and degrees baby boomers will earn at the 20 colleges participating in the initiative are needed for the jobs of the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 30 percent of the nation’s fastest-growing occupations will be filled by people who have a postsecondary education credential.

The Plus 50 Completion Strategy is part of a growing completion thrust among community colleges to promote the development and implementation of policies, practices, and institutional cultures that will produce 50 percent more students with high quality degrees and certificates by 2020. President Obama and leading foundations have identified community colleges as a key drive in achieving a higher percentage of college-prepared citizens for the nation.

The Plus 50 Completion Strategy is funded with a four-year grant from Lumina Foundation. The grant to AACC is part of a commitment by Lumina Foundation involving 19 organizations working strategically to help adult learners complete college. The Lumina Foundation grant builds on the successful Plus 50 Initiative launched by AACC in 2008 and funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies. Support from The Atlantic Philanthropies augments the new Plus 50 Completion Initiative.


The other selected colleges are: Atlantic Cape Community College (Mays Landing, N.J.), Century College (White Bear Lake, Minn.), Hazard Community and Technical College (Hazard, Ky.), Monroe Community College (Rochester, N.Y.), Northeastern Junior College (Sterling, Colo.), St. Louis Community College (St. Louis, Mo.), Southern Arkansas University Tech (Camden, Ark.), Southwestern Illinois College (Belleville, Ill.), University of Alaska - Anchorage Community and Technical College (Anchorage, Alaska) and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College (Valdosta, Ga.).
The new grantees join nine community colleges previously announced as participating in the project. Previous selectees include: Cape Cod Community College (West Barnstable, Mass.), Clover Park Technical College (Lakewood, Wash.), College of Central Florida (Ocala, Fla.), Joliet Junior College (Joliet, Ill.), Metropolitan Community College (Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (Green Bay, Wis.), Pasco-Hernando Community College (New Port Richey, Fla.), Santa Fe College (Gainesville, Fla.) and Wake Technical Community College (Raleigh, N.C.).
Spoon River College is a two-year, public community college in West Central Illinois dedicated to providing students a quality education. With campuses and Community Outreach Offices in Canton and Macomb and new Learning Centers in Havana and Rushville, Spoon River College serves more than 4,000 credit students per year in a 1,566 square miles area including portions of Fulton, McDonough, Mason, Schuyler and Knox counties.