The doors are officially open at the School for Professional Studies, a new division of Elmhurst College devoted to providing top-tier academic programs for busy adults eager to update their skills, advance in their professional lives or change careers altogether.
For these “nontraditional” students—whose work, family and other life commitments often have kept higher education out of reach—the new School offers exceptional academic programs that are innovative and flexible enough to fit into their lives.
Planned throughout the Spring Term and launched on July 1, the School for Professional Studies offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificate programs to working adults and others who don’t fit the profile of the traditional, 18- to 22-year-old full-time college student. New programs in the School will expand Elmhurst’s current array of offerings for adult and graduate students, with areas of study running the gamut from business to the computer sciences, education to the health professions.
All courses and programs in the new School align closely with the mission and tradition of the College while meeting the needs of today’s employers and the fast-growing population of nontraditional students. Because flexibility and innovation are especially crucial to serving these students well, the School will combine up-to-date technologies with the newest pedagogies for reaching and teaching nontraditional learners.
Programs and courses will be offered online and on campus, in accelerated time frames and, eventually, at satellite locations beyond the Elmhurst campus. A new student will be able to start a program at multiple entry points throughout the year, and programs will be offered in both cohort and non-cohort models. The School will assess and award academic credit for prior learning. Strong and experienced leadership by the faculty and administration will guide the School, presenting a model of energized, collaborative engagement.
The School also will give online learning a new home on the Elmhurst campus, and offer faculty expert training in the design and delivery of online and hybrid programs. “The mantra for us has got to be that we can’t expect these students to fit their lives around getting an education,” says Tim Ricordati, dean of the School for Professional Studies. “Instead, we have to enable them to fit their education into their lives.”
Elmhurst College alumni will get an additional perk: Starting this fall, any alumnus or alumna interested in pursuing a graduate degree at Elmhurst can take his or her first course for free.
“We’re very excited to be able to do this for our alumni,” Ricordati says. “They’re the ones who know firsthand the value and meaning of an Elmhurst education, and they deserve a special incentive for coming back.”
The quality of the new School’s programs will be consistent with that of the larger Elmhurst College curriculum and its hard-earned reputation for academic excellence. Maintaining high academic standards across the institution is a priority that has been voiced passionately and repeatedly by all of the College’s stakeholders.
“It’s been emphasized to me that the School must be committed to offering programs of the highest quality—that whatever we do, we must remain true to the Elmhurst brand of mission-driven, values-based, high-touch education,” Ricordati says. “The School for Professional Studies is and will continue to be part of the fabric of Elmhurst College; it will never sit outside it. The programs that we offer must be of the same quality as those we offer our traditional students.”
At a moment when Elmhurst, like all institutions of higher learning, faces financial challenges, the School will tap new student markets, providing an additional sustainable source of tuition revenue. These revenues are the primary source of financial support for the entire academic enterprise, including faculty, programs and facilities.
As the School expands the depth and diversity of Elmhurst’s curriculum, it will enable the College to become still more widely known. “People who live in Elmhurst and DuPage County certainly know about the College. But what about people in Waukegan? Wyoming? London?” Ricordati asks. “Over the next few years, we’re going to expand the reach of Elmhurst College and, as we do, more people will see the Elmhurst degree and appreciate where it came from and what it means.”
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