UW Evening Degree Program marks 20 years of helping working adults to finish what they started

October 6, 2010

Since its inception in 1990, the degree completion program designed to be the last two years of college for working adults has graduated more than 2,000 students. Nearly half of those graduates entered the program between the ages of 26 and 35. Some have returned to school decades after starting and then suspending their studies.

Setting an example and overcoming self doubt2006 graduate Caroline Mercado had told herself that the UW was out of reach. She would say she just wasn’t one of those “college types,” but the truth was that she didn’t believe she’d be able to pull together the financial resources let alone succeed there as a student. So she did everything but seek a UW degree: working days to help out her family, attending community college at night, traveling the world when she could. Soon, however, she became keenly aware that her lack of a bachelor’s degree was limiting her career.

“Without that piece of paper, I was always having to prove myself to others that I was capable,” she said. Then she married and had a child – and became determined to be an example for her son. “But still I had that mental block. For some reason I still didn’t believe UW was an option for me.” Despite that inner voice of doubt, she finally met with an Evening Degree Program advisor – who convinced her that her dream was absolutely feasible. Today, Mercado is just months away from launching her own environmental art and design firm.

After personal tragedy – a new game planA transfer student from Seattle Central, Keonna Moffett (2006 graduate) had just entered the UW intent on pursuing a psychology degree when the unthinkable happened: her mother passed away. Losing a parent is difficult enough, but she also lost crucial financial support for school. “I needed a new game plan,” she says. She found the answer in the UW’s Evening Degree Program. Its schedule allowed her to work days and pay tuition credit by credit as she went. Today, Moffett has her Licensed Social Worker Associate & Independent Clinical (LSWAIC) and is looking for a position that will allow her to continue to pursue her passion for working with homeless and disadvantaged youth and families.

Inspired by lives transformed by education
After more than 15 years in the apparel design industry, Teresa McDermott (2001 graduate) switched gears and took a staff position at Olympic College on the Kitsap Peninsula. Way back when, she’d earned a two-year degree in apparel design. But watching lives around her being transformed by education inspired her anew. After completing her bachelor’s, McDermott took on new projects at Olympic. Today she oversees the worker retraining and internship programs and is finishing up a Master of Science in Management. 

Degree completion for personal enrichment and career gainThe reasons students return to school to complete their bachelor’s degree are several, says Connie Montgomery, director of  academic advising for the Evening Degree Program. In an annual survey, 77 percent of students entering the program cite personal enrichment. Career advancement is the second-most cited reason at 67 percent (students can select more than one). Preparing for graduate study comes in third at 43 percent. “Personal enrichment does seem to rank at the top along with career and advanced study so people definitely recognize the value of their education on more than one level,” says Montgomery.

Enter an EDP class and you’ll sit among students ranging widely in age, work and life experience. While almost half are between the ages of 26 and 35, others are as young as 20 and as old as 70. But each student must have at least 75 transferable college credits on record before gaining entry to the program. Once admitted, they can select from among five majors: communication, English, humanities, social science, and a Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics and Health Management.

Smaller class sizes and a more intimate communityIn addition to evening hours convenient for working adults, the program makes the return to school less daunting in other ways. With about 500 students active in the program at any one time, it forms a smaller, more intimate community on the UW campus of 36,000 students. Classes are held in a small geographic area on campus, and class sizes are kept smaller as well (averaging about 25 students).

And seats are still available. “We can admit more students if they meet requirements,” Montgomery said. “Because it’s fee-based, the program generates its own revenue to add more courses if necessary. … [It’s] all the positives of a small, private, liberal-arts college within all the resources of a large university.”

For more details about the Evening Degree Program, including information meetings and scheduling appointments with an advisor, please see www.evedegree.washington.edu/edp.

About UW Professional & Continuing Education UW Professional & Continuing Education (UWPCE) is a unit of UW Educational Outreach at the University of Washington, the nationally and internationally ranked public research institution based in Seattle, Washington. In addition to the certificate programs, advanced degrees, short courses, conferences and workshops offered through UWPCE, UW Educational Outreach administers programs for youth, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for people age 50 and over, UW-Community Partnerships and more. For additional information: www.keeplearning.uw.edu and www.outreach.washington.edu.  

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