Working students are the fastest growing part of the student population in the country because most people realize they need advanced credentials to create the life they want but cannot afford a traditional undergraduate or schooling experience.
Designing a program that meets the needs of these students is a major goal of Patten University in Oakland, which has become one of the fastest growing online universities, serving students in 38 states across the country, the majority from California, according to Dr. Thomas Stewart, president of the university.
About 37 million Americans start college and do not graduate. Too many of them stumble over the difficulties of going to school while supporting themselves and their families, says Stewart, who explains that Patten was founded to “create a university that addresses the needs of working adults.”
“If I’m a working adult, and I have a family, I can’t go to CAL,” he said, noting that 15 percent of Patten’s online students are over the age of 50. “Patten is designed to give you what you need.”
A native of Washington, D.C and raised in an urban community, Stewart understands that urban universities must fit urban realities.
He points to his own experiences. As an undergraduate, Dr. Stewart flunked out of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), but after serving in the military, he returned to the university to finish his bachelor’s degree and went on to gain his masters and doctorate from Harvard.
While the degrees from Harvard confer status, he said, the name of the institution does not matter at the end of the day. What is important is a person’s work ethic and the skills they are able to offer an employee.
“Assumptions are made from names,” he said. “There are over 4,000 universities. If you eliminate [schools] named after a state or after someone famous, most people can’t tell the name of 3,000 of them,” he said. “…People have to find what’s a good fit for them.”
Expanding rapidly, Patten has grown to a student population over 1,000 in its first 18 months. Stewart says that number will be 10 times as large by the end of the year.
He credits Patten’s success with its application of the “UNOW Model,” which allows students to pay as they go, offers personal coaching, works on a self-paced format and has voluntarily chose not to receive Title IV funding.
The school also uses an interactive teaching approach that monitors a student’s progress and readiness indicators that show a student’s understanding of the subject, identifying the areas they should look over again before taking a final exam.
As one of the most affordable private universities in the nation, Patten’s tuition is $5,000 for an academic year and includes all fees for books and other learning resources. While the university does not offer financial aid, it does offer financial options, strongly discouraging students from saddling themselves with student loans.
“Forfeit a cable bill for a year or two, and it could pay for you to go to college,” Stewart said.
In addition to its online courses, Patten offers campus-based degree programs for students who want a classroom experience,
Patten University is located at 2433 Coolidge Ave. in Oakland. For more information, www.patten.edu or call (510) 485-7820.