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CCBC reaching out to older students

The Community College of Baltimore County is revving up to launch an outreach program aimed at increasing the number of CCBC students age 50 and older, which officials are organizing with help from a $15,000 grant from the American Association of Community Colleges.

The national, AACC-organized initiative, called Plus 50, will also be rolled out for the first time at the College of Southern Maryland, which plans to begin its efforts in January at the start of the spring 2014 semester. CSM also received a three-year, $15,000 grant. CCBC’s grant was announced in March and will be delivered over three years.

The Plus 50 initiative, which helps community colleges create or improve programs that engage older-adult students, began in 2008 as a pilot program with the general objective of increasing opportunities at community colleges for that population. It has since expanded several times to include more schools and accomplish more specific goals.

The most recent expansion is known at the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, which began in 2012 at 28 schools. In March, the Encore program, which focuses on helping baby boomers earn degrees in the high-demand fields of health care, education and social services, was expanded to another 36 schools (including CCBC and CSM).

The Encore program’s goal is to reach 10,000 adult students at 100 campuses by 2015. It’s funded with a $3.2 million grant provided to AACC by Deerbrook Charitable Trust, an education-focused foundation.

A Gallup poll in May found that 73 percent of U.S. workers age 55 and older plan to continue working after retirement.

The participating schools will use the money to create a variety of outreach, training and support tools geared toward attracting adult students, addressing challenges they encounter when seeking further education opportunities and evaluating what kinds of programs are effective for current students in that age group.

Workforce training programs will prepare older students for jobs such as pharmacy technicians, dental assistants, early childhood educators, medical billing and coding specialists, certified nursing assistants and substance abuse counselors.

As the schools work to improve their offerings for older students, CCBC and CSM will get feedback from two other colleges in the state that received grants and launched the program a few years ago. Anne Arundel Community College and Prince George’s Community College are among the 12 schools nationwide known as “Plus 50 Champions,” a group designed to coach schools that recently signed on to the initiative.