When the School of Continuing Studies and Academic Outreach at East Tennessee State University began in 1988, there were less than a dozen students enrolled in this degree-completion initiative.
Now, 25 years later, there are around 2,500 alumni from the school and the possibility to earn multiple bachelor’s- and master’s-level degrees there. Soon scholarships may be available for students who wish to finish their degrees, said Rick Osborn, dean of the school.
With tuition getting expensive, Osborn said a scholarship was recently proposed. This initiative coincided with the school’s 25th anniversary.
“Not only is it a good thing to celebrate, it’s also a good time to celebrate our alumni ... and raise funds for scholarships,” Osborn said.
Osborn is in the process of contacting alumni and instructors who work through the School of Continuing Studies regarding the establishment of an endowment that would fund scholarships of some sort.
Osborn said even a $500 textbook scholarship would mean a lot to a student.
“If we could give that to several students, I think that would be good,” he said.
The school was established to broaden the range of educational services for older and non-traditional age students, or students over the age of 23. There are a little more than 500 students enrolled in the School of Continuing Studies and their average age is in the mid-30s.
Many of the students have young children to care for and full-time jobs to attend in addition to studies.
“And so we try to serve those students who can’t come to campus, who have a job responsibility or life responsibility to make it easier for them to finish a degree and come to ETSU,” Osborn said.
Students usually come to the School of Continuing Studies after having completed between 75 and 80 hours of coursework, Osborn said. A typical degree at ETSU consists of 120 credit hours.
“It’s very, very rare for us to have a student who comes in with less than 50 hours, so we have been very active in trying to boost the college graduation rate,” Osborn said.
Many students in the school have started college, dropped out for whatever reason and decided to return and finish that bachelor’s degree. Most students are employed and find they need a degree to advance.
Many students who enroll in the School of Continuing Studies have been to numerous colleges prior to finding their place with Osborn’s group.
“It’s not unusual for one of our students to have attended three or four colleges,” Osborn said. “When you’ve gone to seven colleges and you’re finally able to put things together, it means a lot to them and us. It’s rewarding.”
The school started by offering a bachelor of general studies. Now there is the bachelor of applied science degree, a bachelor of science in professional studies and a bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies.
Those last two degrees can be obtained totally online.
But the school offers master’s-level degrees, too.
The master of art in liberal studies and archival studies is an interdisciplinary program, meaning it draws from various programs on campus. Students can craft these degrees, with approval, to their specific likings. Appalachian studies and women’s studies are two common areas for this degree.
“Sometimes students just have a varied interest,” Osborn said. “No two programs are the same. They reflect student interest. We get some really interesting projects like that.”
Examples of prior programs resulted in an analysis of candy making in Bristol, museum exhibits and a project involving the Burning Man Festival.
The master of professional studies is an online program.
ETSU’s office of professional development operates under the School of Continuing Studies and provides people with the option to obtain certification in a particular field.
For example, polysomnography certification is offered for people who want to work in a sleep clinic. Paralegal and phlebotomy certifications are also available.
For more information on the School of Continuing Studies and for contact information, visit etsu.edu/academicaffairs/scs.