Adult Learning Centers: What to Know Before You Choose One

Do you want to advance your education, career, or skills?

If you’re an adult learner, it’s probably not as easy for you to do so as it is for younger learners who have the luxury of unscheduled time and little-to-no debt.

As an adult, finding a learning center that can help you achieve your goals, fits into your schedule and learning style, and which doesn’t break the bank can be a challenge.

Adult learning centers have, historically, been in-person, brick and mortar, locations that can be a hassle to get to. The hours are typically in the evenings…which can be problematic for many types of workers and lifestyles. Because of this, adult learners sometimes faced difficulty in achieving the advancement they wanted.

Good news: the online world’s gone through many evolutions since the Internet first became popular (I’m thinking back to the days of AOL and Yahoo). Fast forward to today and many people work online. People have doctor’s appointments online. They stay in touch with friends online. They grocery shop online…and, yes, they learn online.

For adult learners, the online world can be an incredible place. You can learn new skills, get degrees, and advance professionally in a way — and at a time — that works for you. You no longer have to drive far from home, schedule classes in the evenings, and stress about fitting everything into your hectic week. Finding an adult learning center can be as easy as clicking a few buttons and filling out a form.

You can find an adult learning center for virtually everything: finish your GED online, get your associate’s or bachelor’s degree online, earn a graduate degree online, advance your degree with a professional certification online, and even acquire cooking or craft skills…online.

Below is a list of things to consider when looking for an adult learning center:

1. Do They Have the Program You Want?

This is the most important consideration for any adult learning center: online or not. Don’t choose a learning center because they email you, or because your friend went there, or because it’s easy to apply: choose a learning center because it can give you the program you want.

Some adult learning centers, for example, may offer an RN to BSN program — if you’re already an RN, that’s a lot faster and less expensive than having to start from scratch.

Don’t let your goals get pigeonholed by limited options: with the online world, your options are nearly limitless.

2. Are They Accredited?

Accreditation means an outside governing body verifies the learning center’s degrees and programs.

Accreditation in education matters — it means there’s a stamp of quality on a learning center. Whether you’re getting a GED or a professional certification. You don’t want to end up with a fly-by-night education that gives you a credential but doesn’t leave you with the skills you need to advance!

It’s also important in securing financing and loans. Plus, graduating from an accredited program tells future employers that you’ve received an education that meets certain specifications.

To find out if a learning center is accredited, you can just ask (if it’s not apparent on the website already – many learning institutions will display their accreditations in prominent places such as the footer of the website or the About page).

3. Do They Offer Financial Aid? Flexible Payments?

Another important consideration in finding an adult learning center, online or in person, is if they offer financial aid for the specific program in which you are interested. If not — for example, if the program isn’t eligible for financial aid — do they offer flexible payment options or do they expect payment up front in a lump sum?

Keep in mind that not all programs are eligible for financial aid and FAFSA loans. If financial aid is an important consideration for you, be sure to choose a program that will be eligible. The adult learning center’s admissions and outreach should be able to help you determine which program will be eligible.

4. Do They Cater to Different Schedules?

Asynchronous classes means classes that you take without live instruction; synchronous classes happen at a scheduled time and are live. If you need the flexibility of asynchronous classes, be sure to ask, upfront, what the options are. Not all classes or programs will offer asynchronous learning: clarify with the admissions crew that you will need that level of flexibility.

On the other hand, if you prefer live instruction, be sure to find out that the center offers this for your program. Not all learning centers offer live instruction — so go ahead and ask!

5. What’s The Success Rate?

Accreditation, flexibility, financing, and program options are all incredibly important considerations when you’re looking for an adult learning center…but: this one is key….what’s the learning center’s success rate.

If, for example, you’re considering enrolling in an online GED/Hi-Set course — you need to know what the success rate is for students who’ve gone through the program? How many passed the exam? If you’re looking at an online doctorate program, you want to know how long it takes the average student to complete the degree and what’s the percentage of students who enroll vs. students who graduate.

6. What Do Other Adult Learners Say?

Beyond all the points above, you need to find out what similar students say about the school and program you’re looking into. Are they happy with it? How are the teachers and professors? Do they have complaints?

Good places to find this out are Google Reviews, Rate My Professor (what do students say about the professors….don’t just look at one professor but at least a handful), and even the Better Business Bureau where consumers can file public complaints.

This is important because you want to know what you’re getting into…before you end up in debt or not learning or both!

In sum, deciding to further your education and skills is a big decision. Do the work ahead of time to find the right learning environment for you: your budget, your goals, and your schedule. Be sure the center you choose is accredited and will give you a quality learning environment from which you can launch into the next phase of your life!

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