A recent honor to SUNY Oswego recognizes the college's efforts to support its non-traditional students.

A college education can be important when it comes to the present-day workforce, but for adults wishing to return to school, it can be challenging to find a school with the ability to accommodate their unique circumstances. 

However, at SUNY Oswego, adults can return to school and receive a quality education, at a campus that is accommodating and willing to meet the essential needs of these non-traditional students. The school was recently recognized as a 2021 Top Adult Degree Program by Abound, which is a “college guidance system” that aims to help adults find the best school for them. 

Oswego earned the honor after Abound examined their “accessibility, affordability, acceleration and advancement” for adult students.

“I knew initially that I wanted to stay within the SUNY network of schools,” said Veronica Becker, a wellness management major. “I saw the wellness management program at Oswego and knew it was right for me. It is available 100 percent online, and the classes align with interests and future goals.”

For Jacob Nesci, a native of Syracuse, the close location and online work allowed him to finish his schooling after an unexpected turn of events.

“I started out graduating from Herkimer County Community College with my associate’s degree in communications,” Nesci said. “I chose Utica College as my next chapter to finish my undergrad, and as most do, I changed my major three or four times… As what I thought were my last two years came to an end, I was hit with a notice that more than half my credits from HCCC were not being accepted as transfer credits.”

This meant that Nesci would have to attend Utica for two more years to obtain his degree, something that he said was “out of the question.”

“I searched relentlessly for programs closer to home,” he continued. “I finally found the online broadcasting/communications program through SUNY Oswego. I figured this would be the perfect situation for me, as I was able to live at home and finish my degree.” 

For senior criminal justice major Emily Jock, who works in downtown Syracuse for a state agency investigating prescription drug crimes, class availability at SUNY Oswego's Syracuse campus helped make the degree possible. See related video.

"Doing it here was convenient," Jock said during a recent interview from the Syracuse campus in the Atrium building on Clinton Square, which is near her work and where her daughter goes to school. "Everything is very close by, so all of my classes that I chose to do, it was, it fit to choose Oswego."

Learning and growing

Being able to complete coursework entirely online also allows students to maintain full-time employment while earning their degree. 

“One of the major considerations for me was ensuring that my new job would allow me to focus on coursework when I was not working,” said Becker.

For Nesci, being able to maintain a full-time job while completing his schooling, along with moving into his first “non-college” apartment, allowed him to feel like “everything was falling into place.” 

Naturally, it can be difficult to balance a full-time job and schoolwork. Despite this, both Nesci and Becker said that SUNY Oswego has done a tremendous job of being accommodating and understanding of any issues that may arise.

“My advisor is a large contributor to my success,” Becker said. “From registering for classes to being available for support with questions, providing information about resources available, and by letting me know what to expect, I feel extremely supported.”

Nesci echoed this idea. “SUNY Oswego has been the most helpful school I have been to yet,” he said. “The punctuality, and the simple display of how much the staff truly cares about your experience and success, really spoke volumes to me and played a huge role in me finishing my degree at Oswego.”

Since the pandemic, Jock has shifted more towards online classes in her major. The classes have helped her understand parts of her job even better, and Jock credits the faculty for their flexibility as she balances work and family life.

"The faculty are quick to understand that I do have a family," Jock said, and that they will assure her to concentrate on family and that they will work something out for the assignments.

A major part of the college experience is being involved on campus, and with activities relating to the school. While online learners may feel left out of the community at many schools, this tends not to be the case at SUNY Oswego.

“Oswego has done a great job making me feel like a part of the Oswego student community, despite the fact that I am a non-traditional distance learner. The programs, resources, and overall support available has been excellent,” Becker said.

“As long as earning a degree is a person’s priority, I believe anyone can achieve success at Oswego,” Becker added.

Commitment to students

Understanding how students balance priorities is important to the college as well, Dean for Extended Learning Jill Pippin emphasized.

"SUNY Oswego is committed to providing a quality higher education experience to adult and non-traditional students," said Pippin, whose division oversees non-traditional student advisement and services, as well as operations for the Syracuse campus. "Pursuing higher education when one has other responsibilities and priorities isn’t easy as work, family and other life commitments all have to be part of that equation. Embarking on a bachelor’s degree can be intimidating -- adult students may be unsure of the right program, if study can fit into their busy schedule, or if they have what it takes to be a successful student."

Offering several options that serve a variety of students is key. "At SUNY Oswego, not only do we offer online and programs with online and in person elements in Syracuse, but our completion programs have specific application to the world of work," Pippin noted.

"Service offices support students throughout their educational journey with online resources and remote assistance, and academic planning coordinators are concierges to the college experience, who connect students to administrative functions, academic supports, and other engagement opportunities," Pippin said. "They coach students and cheer them on until they cross the finish line and get that degree."

Non-traditional students "not only take on this challenge, they excel and are able to advance their careers and be a shining example of a successful student long after being out of school, perhaps even before using technology for study," Pippin said. "If you're considering coming back to complete your bachelor's degree, know that you can do this, you have support and you are taking a powerful step toward advancing your future. 

For more information on non-traditional services, visit the Extended Learning website or email extlearn@oswego.edu.

-- Written by Dylan McGlynn of the Class of 2021