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College's night program flourishes

Degree-completion division saw 20 percent jump in enrollment in 2008

Posted: January 10, 2009 9:12 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2009 10:00 a.m.

Student Elijah Wheeler, far right, looks on during a discussion in a night class for The Master's College's degree completion program. The Christian college saw a 20 percent spike in enrollment for the program in 2008.

Call it a sign of the times.

The soaring national unemployment rate is motivating adults to finish their college degrees, as enrollment in The Master's College's Adult Degree Completion Program increased more than 20 percent last year, school officials said.

"It's a great time for people to finish the degree that they never completed," said Jason Semelsberger, program marketing and enrollment manager. "A lot of the adult programs are experiencing an increase because people want to become a more-desired employee, they want to be more equipped and they want to separate themselves (to avoid) layoffs."

The current level of unemployment also suggests people feel pressure to complete their degrees to remain competitive in the workplace, he said.

"A lot of people are spending quite a bit of time trying to interview for positions," Semelsberger said. "They're stuck in limbo by being qualified, but there are not enough jobs to go around."

The program allows adults to earn a degree while balancing a full-time work schedule. Classes meet one night per week and the accelerated structure of the program makes it possible for a student to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in fewer than 20 months.

"It's really attractive to adults who want to efficiently get their degree done and be equipped to do whatever the Lord has for them," Semelsberger said.

The program offers four areas of study: Christian ministries, organizational management, liberal studies and Biblical counseling.

"The program is very diverse," Semelsberger said. "The average age of the student is 37, but we have students from the early 20s all the way up to 60 to 65."

Program academic advisor Maryam Maghen graduated from the program in May 2004 with a bachelor's degree in biblical studies.

"I was 30-something and I was tired of being in retail," she said. "I knew I needed a degree to change careers and excel. I loved that it was one night a week for eight weeks. It was a convenience factor."

Maghen said the program allowed her to complete her degree when she otherwise wouldn't have been able to.

"The fact that I finished my degree was a milestone for me. It was huge," she said. "I had such personal attention from the professors, to the entire staff (and) my academic counselor."

Students who apply for the program must submit a statement of faith, be at least 25 years old, transfer at least 16 units with a grade of "C" or better and be able to study and write at the collegiate level.

The college, founded as Los Angeles Baptist College in 1927, is a non-denominational Christian liberal arts college located in Placerita Canyon. Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley has been the president since 1985.

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