Moonlighting 101

It's easier than ever to get a degree at night—but the homework is still your responsibility!

Many people think that once they hit their thirties, their college days are over. Life tends to get in the way of education: family, relationships, jobs—not to mention that pesky matter of paying tuition. But for those considering earning a bachelor's or master's degree while still working full-time, there are plenty of options. New York colleges are ramping up their evening and weekend offerings to cater to career-changers, people who want to be more marketable, and those who simply didn't attend college when they were younger.

"Students appreciate that this is an option, particularly if you're transitioning from one field to another or if you have work or family obligations," says Gerianne Brusati, associate dean for admissions at the New School. "Many of our students are already pursuing careers. The opportunity to be a student but not have to reconfigure your whole life to do it really seems to be a positive one."

At New York University, the Paul McGhee Division of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (scps.nyu.edu/mcghee) gives undergrads the option of earning a bachelor's or associate degree completely through evening and weekend classes. Associate dean Helen Wussow says the average student is 30 years old. Many took a few semesters of college but never completed it.

"Some of them have been out for over 10 years," says Wussow. "Many students stopped because they got into a business opportunity during the boom of the '90s—education was not a priority [then]. But now's the time."

McGhee offers 15 degrees and over 30 majors. The newest degrees include B.A.'s in public administration and technical writing, and a B.S. in leadership and management studies. Associate degrees are also available, as well as a number of other B.A. and B.S. concentrations. Wussow says most students take eight to 12 credits (two or three classes) per semester, which means earning a degree could take five or six years. The New School offers an evening schedule for a bachelor of arts with a liberal arts focus (newschool.edu). And at City University of New York, 44 percent of instruction is offered on Fridays, weekends, and evenings, with both undergraduate and graduate degree options. For instance, the Center for Worker Education at City College of New York (cuny.edu/workered) offers liberal arts B.A.'s with eight concentrations, as well as a B.S. in early-childhood education. Lehman College in the Bronx has an adult degree program with evening and weekend classes. In addition, eight of CUNY's colleges offer programs in which an associate or bachelor's degree can be earned entirely during weekend classes.

For graduate degrees, many schools in the city offer night or weekend classes, knowing that many students could only afford to invest in the education if they can still work during the day. The New School offers, among others, graduate programs in media studies, creative writing, and international affairs. All programs can be taken part-time, and Brusati says the typical part-time student takes two courses a semester. The M.F.A. in writing program is the exception, requiring students to carry a full-time schedule (nine credits, or three classes per semester), although it offers an entire schedule of evening classes, and can be completed in two years. There are also evening graduate programs at the Milano Graduate School.

Columbia University currently has one program that can be completed at night: a master's of science in strategic communications (ce.columbia.edu/stratcomm). Trudi Baldwin, director of communications for the School of Continuing Education at Columbia, says the school is planning more evening degree programs for the future.

Naturally, a major consideration for any adult considering returning to school is financial. Higher education—particularly graduate programs—doesn't come cheap, especially in New York. At the New School, undergraduate degree programs for fall 2004 are $696 per credit, while many of the graduate degree credits are between $850 and $900. The creative-writing M.F.A. program has a flat fee of $8,750 per semester. McGhee also has a flat rate for tuition and fees for six- to 10-credit semesters. For 2003-2004, the flat rate was $6,776 per semester or $13,552 per year. At CUNY, tuition varies depending on whether the student is full- or part-time, is attending a senior or a community college, and is a resident of New York. For part-time students at senior colleges, tuition for New York State residents is $170 per credit. Residents who attend senior colleges full-time pay $4,000 per year. And Columbia's tuition is $950 per credit point—earning that master's will probably set you back about $34,000.

 
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