In times of economic difficulty, some adults without college degrees have experienced the downfalls of not having a college education. The Cal Poly Adult Degree Program will hold an open house and information seminar to explain how the program offers a chance for working adults to earn a college degree Saturday at 10 a.m.

The new program will allow adults who have been out of high school for six years or more a chance to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in interdisciplinary studies. Classes are designed to fit a working person’s schedule and are offered in the early evening.

Interdisciplinary studies, a new major, allows students to study a wide array of career-related subjects.

Students who have graduated with this major have worked in a variety of fields, including advertising, business management, civil service, financial planning, health administration, law enforcement and stockbroking.

“We’ve found that people are now changing careers after working for awhile. When you have a degree that’s general like this, it allows you to change fields. It’s something of a Renaissance degree,” said program coordinator and political science professor Erik Long.

To qualify, students must have all general education credits. In addition to taking a variety of upper division courses, they then must take an orientation class, two critical issues seminars, an analytical skills seminar and then must complete two programs similar to a senior project. The first seminar, The Advanced Investigation Seminar, is an in-depth investigation into a narrowly defined area of personal or professional interest. This can range from religion and culture to science, politics or economics.

Students then must complete the Capstone Project. This is a project or report also linked to the students’ personal or professional goals. It is designed to help qualify students to work in specific fields.

Students will take classes in cohorts, which will consist of groups of 30 students who will take classes together throughout the program. This can be compared to classes at West Point, which are designed to guarantee the success of the entire class, as opposed to individual students.

“Students will move together as a team, move as a unit. It is a well known fact that teams succeed where individuals fail,” Long said. “The importance of education is self- realization and growth. One of the benefits of the program is allowing people the opportunity to grow and realize their own potential, said Bud Evans, a political science professor. Evans will be teaching Contemporary Global Political Issues in the program. “Better educated people are an asset to the community. They make wiser choices when voting, they influence their neighbors and they contribute to their community more effectively,” he said.

Colleen Looyson, a social sciences senior is a returning “adult” student. “Twenty-five years ago, I did not need a degree. We owned three businesses. Now though, a degree is absolutely essential,” she said. “It would have been much easier for me to have a different outlet. It is nearly impossible for working adults, with families, to attend school.” Looyson moved her family to California because of the many universities here.

This program is in stark contrast to virtual universities, like the University of Phoenix. “This program offers a community of scholars. These students can talk to their professors, visit during office hours, be students like yourself and myself,” Long said. “They can apply the Socratic method; argue issues and debate them. What a great opportunity.

After completion, many graduates of the program will see an increase of $12,000 annually in salary. Many in similar programs continued to earn masters in Public policy and business administration.

Long said the program will directly benefit the community. “This gives working adults a chance to complete their degree and then to give back to the community. That is the purpose of a university, to benefit humankind,” Long said. “Education is at the core of progress in societies throughout history.”

The Cal Poly Adult Degree program will hold its open house and information session Saturday, Dec. 3 from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. in room 220 of the University Union.

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