Keep Your Eye on the Prize!

Posted by Stephanie Mooshegian

The life of an adult learner is packed! With work, school, and personal obligations, SPS students have little time to spare. Even with excellent time management skills and self-regulation techniques, students can feel sometimes feel overwhelmed when balancing their load. Returning to school while working full time is not an easy feat, and if it were, then everyone would do it. The fact that SPS students are attending school, managing work duties, and making time for personal obligations sets them apart from others. Each term, I see students experience personal responsibilities such as caring for sick children or parents, losing – and finding – jobs, and even personally undergoing medical procedures. All the while, SPS students are working full time and attending classes in the evenings or online. SPS students are making it all happen. The commitment of our SPS students continues to amaze me!

Despite obstacles such as job loss, death of a parent or loved one, a demanding boss, or even uprooting a family into a new home, students still manage to submit assignments and papers, attend classes where they actively participate, and all the while maintain a positive, determined attitude. The lifestyle an adult learner is inherently busy, and there are many, many excuses that could be made for not completing coursework on time, dropping a class, or even ‘stopping out’ for the summer. Yet, somehow the vast majority of our students remain focused.

In noticing this pattern, I couldn’t help but wonder, what drives our SPS students? Fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to survey SPS students on the topic of student retention. I wanted to know why students decided to stay in school, and in particular, why they stay at SPS. In true, ‘late night’ fashion (and believe me, our students know about late nights!), here are the top ten reasons why our students stay at SPS along with some of my favorite write-in comments.

Top Ten Reasons SPS students stay at SPS

10.   Flexibility (9.1% responding)

Accelerated programs
“Class hours are convenient with my work schedule.”
“Being able to go at my own pace”
“SPS gives me the encouragement to be able to juggle work, school, and family- and know you can finish”

9.     For family/ Children (9.6% responding)

“(I am the) first among my family to complete a degree.”
“I am an example to my children that it is never too late to continue an education.”
“I want to prove to myself, my husband, my teenage kids that I can do it.”
“I’m a role model for my son.”

8.     For the love of learning (10% responding

“I look forward to learning something new.”
“I want the knowledge my degree gives me.”
“I want to be well-rounded in my education.”
“I love a challenge.”

7.     Faculty/ Instruction (11% responding)

“The teachers have been great; they don’t just teach, they are passionate about education, life.”
“The excellent job instructors do of relating information to real life experience”
” Instructors seem very knowledgeable with experience in the classroom and in their professional fields.”
“Instructors -and advisors- seem to care if I graduate or not.”

6.     Making academic progress and being successful at school (13.4% responding)

“I enjoy my classes and want to finish what I started”
“I have started and there is no turning back”
“The time factor I have already invested. It took 30 years to go back-can’t stop now!”
“I am excelling in my courses, and I want to stay on track( for graduation).”

5.     Cost/Tuition (13.8% responding)

“My company pays 100% of my education expenses, so I might as well continue.”
“My employer provides a great discount for my education costs, so I can’t pass up this opportunity.”
Grants and Loans (make it possible to attend).”
(And for those of you who are not working for a company with these benefits, you can learn more about scholarships and financial aid at SPS).

4.     Commitment and Perseverance (15.3% responding)

“I work very hard, and I am determined to make it work for me.”
“I am committed to earning my degree.”
“Because I am bound and determined to complete this (degree program).”
“I will not give up.”

3.     SPS Programs (20.1% responding)

Programs are set up for you to succeed
“Degrees offered are relevant to the area I am interested in.”
“(My) minor is related directly to my career field.”
“I want to pursue professional certification, and the SPS (post-baccalaureate) certificate will fulfill the requirement.”

2.    Career Advancement and Opportunity (20.5% responding)

“A degree will offer opportunities that were not previously available.”
“To develop professionally.”
“(I have) a promotion pending upon completion of my degree. ”
“I want to have a ‘back-up plan’ in case my current position isn’t satisfactory in the future.”

And the #1 reason students stay at SPS (drumroll, please)…

1.     Personal fulfillment (41.6% responding)

“I owe it to myself.”
“To graduate from college has always been a goal of mine, and one thing that I have never lost sight of”
“To fulfill childhood dreams”
“I made a commitment to myself, and now it’s my time to shine.”

Clearly, SPS students are passionate about achieving their personal goals, advancing their knowledge and potential career opportunities, and showing family and friends they can make it happen. As the semester draws to a close in upcoming weeks, your school work may increase due to final exams and project due dates. When this happens, I encourage you to remind yourself why you are in school. Whether it is to earn your next promotion, fulfill your personal goal, or model the value of a college education to your children, you are here for a reason that is setting you apart from others. I encourage you to keep your eye on that prize!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/53029582@N00/2971189880/

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