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It's Never Too Late for a Degree: The Adult Degree Program at Belmont

Graphic created by Joanna Walden

Some people don’t start or finish their college degrees on the typical timeline, whether that be due to military service, having children or a lack of funds or time.

But Belmont’s adult degree program gives those people opportunity to attend college.

“A lot of times it is a life change that happens that they want to come back and finish that degree that they never finished or never started,” adult degree coordinator Kim Powell said. “For them to be able to come and fulfill that dream of theirs is a good thing.”

Those who go to college to start or finish their degree in adult degree programs are able to study something they are passionate about or learn material they never would have without school.

But adding college onto an already full schedule can be difficult.

In order to help with this, Belmont offers preliminary evaluations for people who want to return to school so they can see where they will be in their degree progress when coming to Belmont.

“They’re trying to juggle children and their schedules, jobs and their schedules, and to fit in going to school,” Powell said. “So being able to do those transcript evaluations early on is a really great thing.”

For people in adult degree programs, like mother of five Brandylyn Landers, fitting school into an already-crowded schedule is difficult.

But it’s a necessary difficulty for what they want to achieve.

“Because I’m not very disciplined at home, I usually get here around 6 a.m. So I do my homework, my project work from six to eight. That gives me a set 10 hours without the weekend,” Landers said.

She views this effort as a positive thing because of the valuable information she has gained from attending classes, Landers said.

“There’s so much value in that knowledge, but I definitely think there’s only value in it if you’re ready,” Landers said. “At this stage in life it’s better because I value the information differently.”

Another student who also waited to go to college is Navy veteran and music business major Tyler Branham.

He enlisted in the Navy at 19 years old, then served a five-year contract before coming to Belmont.

Branham waited because he knew he would not hold the information he received with the respect it deserved, he said.

“I got out of high school and figured that I needed to do something with myself and so that’s why I enlisted. I had no direction at that time,” Branham said.

Soon, Branham discovered that he wanted to go from the boat to the books, studying music business.

“During the Navy I found out what I wanted to do, which was music business,” Branham said. “Coming out of the Navy, I found Belmont and used my GI bill to go to college.”

The GI Bill, or the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, helps veterans get college degrees by funding their time at college, according to the National Archives.

Using these funds, Branham was able to have his entire tuition covered, allowing him to immerse himself into college life.

“I definitely wanted to get involved, and it’s not necessarily hard to,” Branham said. “I play frisbee with the ultimate frisbee team, I’m in the songwriting club and the board game club on Thursdays because I’m old and I like that.”

Being an adult learner does have some limitations, though, like not feeling like you can ask for help, Landers said.

“I feel a little bad sometimes consuming the professors’ time because I think students probably need more help and I know how to go get help,” Landers said.

This help is through the learning centers at Belmont, where Landers gets help with her statistics homework.

This type of support is not only beneficial for Landers to get a good grade, but necessary, as a lot of the information she is expected to know has been pushed to the back of her mind.

“There might be an expectation that you know basic things, but I haven’t been to school since 1993,” Landers said.

But the life experience that adult learners bring into a classroom full of traditional aged students is invaluable, Powell said.

“A lot of times the two meshing together, the traditional students and the adult students, is really a great thing. Traditionals can help with the technology side of things,” Powell said. “Then the adult students can help with life experience things.”

This experience comes from years of living in the “real world” and being able to share the experiences gained in places like the military or in raising children and working.

Even though at this point in their lives some adult learners do not need a degree to survive, the knowledge gained makes it worth the time, effort and money.

“I went back because I really want to get a bachelor's degree. I never got one,” Landers said. “Do I need it to do my job? Probably not. However, there’s a lot of knowledge I don’t have.”

Adult students bring a different perspective maybe even the professor themselves did not see, and through their experiences, enrich the classroom and Belmont, Powell said.

“Professors love having them in class because it really enriches the classroom experience because you have adults who have a different life experience,” Powell said. “It really can enhance that classroom and learning as far as that classroom experience but also just life in general.”


This article was written by Maya Burney

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