Who You’ll Meet in an Online Degree Completion Program

March 9, 2022

Many college students in the United States don’t resemble the stereotypical undergraduate. Nearly 40 percent of American undergrads are over 25. About a quarter are parents. And many already have some college credits under their belts when they enroll in traditional and online undergraduate degree programs. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center calls them “some college, no degree” students and there are 3.5 million of them in the U.S. with certificates and associate-level credentials in disciplines as varied as computer science and elementary education.

Online degree completion programs like the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, attract these “some college” students. UT’s online bachelor’s degree completion program, which enrolls adult learners with qualified associate’s degrees from eligible Tennessee colleges, is flexible and blends synchronous and asynchronous coursework delivered virtually. Most online students at UT have completed two or more years of higher education and have earned enough college credits to receive associate’s degrees in various disciplines. They enroll in the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs to advance in their current careers, transition into new industries, or simply finish what they started.

Going back to college as an adult is worth it professionally, financially, and personally, but the prospect of returning to the classroom—even a virtual classroom—can be daunting. Some prospective bachelor’s degree completion students worry they won’t fit in because they don’t resemble that stereotypical undergraduate. If you can relate, learning more about who you’ll meet in the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs can help you see that there’s room for you in UT’s degree completion track.

A Closer Look at “Some College” Students

About 36 million Americans who started college after 1993 never completed their degrees. As of 2019, 10 percent of this specific “some college” population completed at least two years of academic study at a four-year undergraduate institution. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center refers to these students as “potential completers” because they have a higher chance of re-enrollment and going on to complete a college degree. Research bears this out. The success rate for students who hold an associate’s degree is 50 percent higher than for those who are returning to school with high school degrees or certificates.

There are a lot of “potential completers” in the United States. About 60 percent of adults who don’t have undergraduate degrees say they would consider going back to school—primarily because bachelor’s degree holders tend to earn significantly more than workers without degrees. About four million students across the country re-enrolled in postsecondary institutions between 2013 and 2018. In Tennessee, nearly 600,000 people have taken college courses but don’t have degrees. About 14,000 Tennesseans earn associate’s degrees every year at community colleges and four-year institutions. Many of these “potential completers” are adult learners looking for a very specific kind of university experience.

Why Adult Learners Choose Flexible Online Degree Programs

According to U.S. News & World Report, the average online bachelor’s degree student is 32 years old. Students who gravitate toward online education are more likely than students in traditional programs to have accumulated some college credits. Just five percent are first-time students. Most started college but stopped short of earning a bachelor’s degree. The vast majority are employed. Some work in service or manufacturing jobs. Others in fields as diverse as healthcare, information technology, and business administration.

Bachelor’s degree completion programs offered online tend to be more flexible than those delivered on-campus and in many cases, are more affordable. However, that doesn’t mean that interdisciplinary studies students in online degree completion programs receive an education that is “less than.” Today’s digital learning environments mimic the on-campus experience in several notable ways.

At the University of Tennessee, Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs candidates do more than just attend live lectures and complete coursework. They take part in online career development events that grow their professional networks and introduce them to potential employers. They meet influential people in their target industries via the University of Tennessee’s network of 400,000 living alumni located in Tennessee and around the world. And the university’s Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration hosts opportunities throughout the year for students to connect with one another and provides specially sourced job opportunities for UT students.

Another reason adult learners with some college credits gravitate toward online bachelor’s programs is that they have clear expectations. They look for degree completion programs that both accommodate work-life-school balance and offer interdisciplinary studies concentrations that support adult college students focused career aspirations.

The Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville offers two bachelor’s concentrations: Public Policy & Administration and Cultures & Societies. The former is for online students looking to pursue careers in government, public service, law, criminal justice, and nonprofit organizations. The latter supports careers in the liberal arts and social sciences.

The Degree Completion Students You’ll Meet at UT

Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs students come from a wide variety of academic, professional, and cultural backgrounds, but most fit into one of the following categories:

New Transfer Students

Younger transfer students enroll in degree completion programs online because they want to create their own life stories. They may have lofty career aspirations and recognize the value of a college degree but be too busy for a traditional full-time bachelor’s degree program. Online education at UT is often ideal for these students, provided they have the requisite transfer credits, because applicants don’t need work experience to apply.

Military Veterans

Roughly six percent of college students in the U.S. serve in the armed forces before enrolling in traditional on-campus bachelor’s programs and online degree completion programs. Military veterans earn bachelor’s degrees in online learning environments to improve their job prospects and boost their income while making the sometimes challenging transition into civilian careers. UT is a 2021-2022 Military Friendly Gold School and committed to upholding academic policies, a university culture and financial aid, and assistance options that support our military community.

Returning Adult Students

These undergraduate students understand that associate’s degrees don’t carry much weight in the professional world—even when paired with work experience. They go back to college to sharpen their skills so they can compete in job markets where employers expect applicants to have bachelor’s degrees.

Professionals Who Feel Stuck

These students are stuck in a holding pattern in their careers because they don’t have the credits or credentials to advance. They are often juggling multiple personal and professional commitments and choose UT because the part-time degree completion program is flexible enough to accommodate busy schedules. They’re also excited that the University of Tennessee extends networking and career development opportunities to online students.

The Benefits of Enrolling in UT’s Degree Completion Program Online

As an adult learner studying online at the University of Tennessee, you’ll enjoy a supportive, hands-on college experience designed to meet your needs. The Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs at UT runs year-round, with classes in the spring, summer, and fall semesters so you can complete your degree quickly and with minimal disruptions. Full-time enrollment for a semester is 12 credit hours, and online courses take place on weekday afternoons and evenings. In live class sessions, you’ll have numerous opportunities to connect with your professors and collaborate with your classmates. And the coursework in the bachelor’s degree completion program teaches real-life career skills like interpersonal communication, writing, and critical thinking you can apply right away in your current workplace or leverage when pursuing new opportunities.

If the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s flexible degree completion program feels like the right fit but you still have questions, you can read about financial aid, the university’s scholarships for transfer students, and the benefits of choosing UT. You can also connect with an enrollment advisor at completeonline@utk.edu. When you’re ready, it’s easy to apply online.