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Adult education and beyond

Monday, March 7, 2022

Nine years ago, Megan Linzy didn’t know what to tell her teenage son. He approached her wanting to quit high school, mirroring her own choice from her sophomore year. Spurred with determination to set a good example and push her children toward a brighter future, Linzy pursued a high school equivalency course where she not only found new skills and opportunities but also a passion and career pathway.

Despite being diagnosed with dyslexia, dyscalculia and short-term memory loss, Linzy and her son, who also has learning disabilities, both found success. In the same year, Linzy completed her course and passed the HiSet exam while her son graduated from high school.

“We’re both competitive; we like to win,” she said. “And for me, this was just the start. I knew more was now possible.”

Adult education and literacy opportunities, like high school equivalency courses, are vital programs provided at Iowa’s community colleges. Over 7,500 students enrolled in an Iowa adult education and literacy course during the 2020-21 school year, and opportunities for adult learners from all skill levels are available. Courses like English language learner (ELL) classes, digital literacy and workplace literacy are tailored by the colleges for a working adult’s schedule and can provide new opportunities to earn credentials as well as confidence.

“I think the moment they walk into an adult education class, they are gaining the confidence they need to achieve the dreams they may have put on the back burner,” said Alex Harris, administrative consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “They are now putting their education on the forefront. Adult education is a gateway to other things whether it is further education or a career pathway.”

For Linzy, earning her high school equivalency credentials influenced her decision to continue her education at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges for an associate’s degree in education.

“School can be hard, and I knew it may take me longer to do things well because of my learning disability, but I realized it was possible to get a degree,” Linzy said. “I liked that I could possibly show to other students, who may have disabilities, that you can overcome your barriers.”

At Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, adult education and literacy courses are considered an on-ramp to new career pathways. The experience of taking a course and building new skills can provide students with the foundational level to continue their education.

“Students can build upon their noncredit classes and move to credit programs for diplomas and degrees,” said Scott Schneider, dean of adult education at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges. “So many people enter the high school equivalency program thinking they won’t succeed. When they do start achieving their goals in the program, they also begin thinking about college-level course work.”

Schneider estimates that over 20 percent of students graduating from the high school equivalency course go on to enroll in other classes at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges. These additional courses leading to potential degrees can help students learn skills and stay competitive in Iowa’s job market.

“Now is the time to earn credentials,” he said. “It helps potential candidates in any type of job market, especially when jobs become more competitive.”

To assist students in having more college experiences, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges has recently begun offering some introductory level courses along with their high school equivalency courses. Students can co-enroll in classes like medical terminology, introduction to computers and introduction to culinary while also pursuing their high school credentials.

“Students can get their feet wet in a college-level course while taking the high school equivalency class,” Schneider said. “They can attend the classes in the same facility, which provides an environment they know and are comfortable in.”

Community colleges providing dual opportunities in adult education and other training is becoming a growing trend. Integrated education and training (IET) programs are popping up across the state and offer students in high school equivalency and ELL programs the chance to learn a new trade and potentially earn college credits while also strengthening basic skills. IET programs can help students address short-term goals and also propel them towards a new career pathway.

For Linzy, the catalyst nine years ago has led her far. She is continuing her college education and is anticipated to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in adult education next year. During this time, she has also been named as a Coalition on Adult Basic Education’s (COABE) adult student of the year and serves as a representative on the Iowa Literacy Council. Linzy’s success has come from her own hard work, and she encourages other students who are looking to change their lives with education to take that first step.

“Start with one class,” she said. “Let yourself be okay with going at a regular pace. Don’t get frustrated and stop because it takes time.”

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on October 03, 2022 at 9:21am.