Springtime in higher education meant commencement season, and that generally brings to mind 20-somethings in caps and gowns marching to “Pomp and Circumstance.” At Pace University, we had several ceremonies like that, across our campuses, and they were great events, happy and memorable.
But perhaps the most inspiring commencement ceremony was for students graduating from our online education programs. These students tend to have families and careers, responsibilities well beyond coursework and exams. But they’re motivated to complete their degrees, and their stories are moving. Several dozen made it to our lower Manhattan campus for their graduation. They came from all over the country, some with children, a few stepping onto a college campus for their first time ever as a student.
Their stories remind us of the important role high-quality online education, following a rigorous curriculum and tied to an educational institution, plays in educating underserved communities. And they highlight the importance of finding ways to make education accessible to all students—of all ages, in all locations, on all schedules, to help those who are seeking new skills, transitioning to new careers, or otherwise working hard to make themselves better-prepared employees. Our online education program for telecom workers is a partnership between Pace and NACTEL, a consortium of telecom companies and unions, and administered by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. The results have been impressive, with more than 1,800 associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees awarded since 2001. As I discovered at commencement, the students are a remarkable bunch.