For some of the smaller schools across the UNC system that rely more exclusively on state funding, one demographic has been hit particularly hard by budget cuts — older, part-time students.
Academic departments across the system are in the process of eliminating course sections, making scheduling particularly difficult for these older students.
Departments at UNC-Pembroke and Fayetteville State University have discontinued offering some evening courses, which older students usually take in order to graduate on time.
“Adult learners … typically have families, they have children, they have jobs,” said Jon Young, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at FSU.
Students 25 or older, who are usually part-time, make up about 16 percent of the UNC system undergraduate population.
The same demographic comprises almost 40 percent of the undergraduate population at FSU.
The university increased online course offerings to help these students, and it has an office specifically dedicated to assisting those who commute to campus and have atypical schedules.
Young said part of FSU’s mission involves reaching out to high school graduates who discover the value of an education later in life.
“Part of our goal is to serve students who may have been out of school for awhile and want to come back to improve their professional prospects,” he said.
But older students are increasingly being forced to alter their work schedules and supplement their undergraduate education with courses from nearby community colleges, said Ashley Dougherty, coordinator of adult and student learner services at FSU.
Evening course sections have also been eliminated at UNC-P to cope with state funding cuts, said Diane Jones, vice chancellor for student affairs.
In response to the cuts, UNC-P eliminated its student activity period, a portion of the class day in which no courses were scheduled to encourage student involvement in extracurricular activities.
“It did add a little bit of flexibility that will help students to have more convenient class times,” said Brian McCormick, student body president at UNC-P.
Despite these scheduling difficulties, students have not been dissuaded from applying to public universities in the state.
Applications at system schools have increased during the past three years, and enrollment has remained steady.
Justin Bean, a 29-year-old undergraduate student at UNC-CH, said he planned to minor in classics until the department was “slashed to the bone.”
Despite dwindling resources, Bean said budget cuts would not have affected his decision to enroll at the University.
“What we’re finding is that our students are determined,” Dougherty said.
“They’re not necessarily saying, ‘I give up.’ They’re saying, ‘Let me find a way around this.’”
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