ATHENS — For Scottsboro Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Jefferson Pendergrass, taking traditional college courses at Athens State University is not an option.
"I'm on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," he said. "It's a process that never stops, so it would be very difficult to be in class. It's just not practical."
Pendergrass, 41, works full-time for Scottsboro's water, sewer and gas board and has spent more than 20 years in the water treatment industry. He visits Athens State's campus only once a semester and completes the majority of his coursework online from home.
Pendergrass, a liberal studies major with a minor in business administration, is among 66 students enrolled in Athens State's new adult degree program, which launched in January to reduce barriers for older students who are working to obtain a college degree.
"The program makes use of any classes students already have under their belt no matter which major they choose," he said. "It's very encouraging since it's kind of like a support group because everybody in the program is in a similar circumstance and a similar age."
Felicia Mucci, counselor for the adult degree program, said students have the option to obtain a bachelor's degree in liberal studies, management of technology or education.
Students also can pair their degrees with a selection of up to 11 minors.
Students can apply previous work experience and training as credit toward their bachelor's degrees to increase their chances of getting a job in their field after college.
The adult degree program also allows students to obtain college credit through seminars, training programs, military and past certifications.
Mucci said the program was designed to assist nontraditional students who are facing unique challenges.
"Most of our students are full-time employed, have families and for some students, the technology has changed," she said. "There are students who haven't attended college in many years."
Adult students can also obtain a prior learning assessment, which includes credit for nontraditional learning, nationally-recognized exams, portfolios and course-specific challenge exams designed by Athens State faculty.
"Because we are a nontraditional type of university, we have a lot of interest in obtaining nontraditional credit," Mucci said. "We've always dabbled in it and worked with students, but we saw the need to beef up what we already did for students."
Mucci said Athens State officials are working to improve its testing services and expand the adult degree program to offer more degree options.
Lucy Berry can be reached at 256-340-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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