WEST LIBERTY - By launching its new Black and Gold Opportunity Plan, West Liberty University is aiming to make the path to higher education a little less overwhelming for traditionally underserved students.
University officials announced the plan Monday at the WLU Highlands Center. The program is designed to assist first-generation college students, older students, working adults, veterans and transfer students in earning a degree.
"In today's world, many of the jobs and professions in highest demand require a college degree or, even, a postgraduate credential," said WLU President Robin C. Capehart. "In this regard, there are significant challenges in terms of access, affordability and student success. For underserved students, the hill that must be climbed is even more daunting."
Due to factors such as the rising price of college, stagnating incomes or diminished asset values that exacerbate the problem of affordability, underserved students can be averse to assuming debt, according to Dean of Enrollment and Student Services Scott Cook.
Through the Black and Gold Opportunity Plan, the university will provide guidance through a series of initiatives that are targeted at helping such students gain access to higher education and the opportunity to earn a college degree.
In terms of access, programs will focus on navigating the admissions process and preparing for the college classroom. The university also will promote the availability of financial aid and finally, once students begin their studies, they will focus on developing skills for success.
The university already offers some assistance programming. The Hilltopper Academy, a summer residential program that acts as a bridge to college readiness for incoming freshmen, provides students intense instruction in math and writing to increase their likelihood for academic achievement. Also, the Learning and Student Development Center houses tutoring, counseling and accessibility services.
Thomas Michaud, dean of West Liberty's School of Professional Studies program at the WLU Highlands Center, said the approach to building new programming is researching and responding to what the population currently needs. For students in the Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership and Administration and Regents Bachelor of Arts Degree, classes are available at convenient times to allow for accelerated completion. As work experience can translate into academic credit, Michaud believes there is a certain respect provided to the adults and veterans who participate in these programs.