Enrollment in accelerated degree program increases by more than 70 percent

photo of family, with three small daughters, near the lakeshore with Mackinac Bridge in background
Amber Belmont is pictured with her husband, Hector, and their three daughters; Belmont will earn a bachelor's degree in April through the accelerated program, LEADS.
Image credit - courtesy photo

Enrollment in a unique, accelerated degree completion program for adult learners offered by Grand Valley rose 72 percent over last year. 

LEADS was announced in February 2020 by President Philomena V. Mantella, who was joined at the event by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The flexible and customizable degree program allows students to shape their bachelor's degree and earn a certificate in a high-demand area (leadership, applied data analytics, project management or intercultural competence and communication). Students also can choose to enroll in a certificate program only.

Campus leaders said the increase in student enrollment (127 in fall 2020, 219 in 2021) signifies the need for such a program, and points to the trust students have in Grand Valley to help them achieve career goals.

Simone Jonaitis, executive director of the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies, said she is pleased, but not surprised, that enrollment grew over the program's inaugural year.

"Adult learners seeking to complete bachelor's degrees for career advancement in their professions need a format that addresses the multiple demands on their time," Jonaitis said. "The LEADS program offers a high-quality experience learners expect in a format that acknowledges their needs."

Amber Belmont, of Wyoming, said she enrolled in the program after learning about its flexibility and fast pace. Belmont is a financial aid specialist at Grace Christian University in Grand Rapids.

"My education path has been a long journey," said Belmont, who earned an associate degree from Grand Rapids Community College. "I knew I didn't want to sit in a traditional classroom."

Because of her job in higher education, Belmont said finishing a bachelor's degree would work to her advantage. And she's doing it for her family. Belmont's husband, Hector, is a program advisor for Grand Valley's TRIO Teacher Preparation Student Support Services. Hector will finish a master's degree in higher education; Amber will finish a bachelor's degree in integrative studies. They both plan to walk in next spring's commencement ceremony.

"A driving factor is our kids," Belmont said. "I want to be an inspiration to our young girls that the only excuse you have for not doing something is yourself."

The program fits with Belmont's family and work schedule. "After the kids go to bed, I work on my homework," she said.

The six-week classes work well and Belmont said, even with remote classes, the students have formed a community.

"I share a lot of classes with the same students and it's nice to have that community to lean on," she said.

Learn more about the accelerated degree program online at gvsu.edu/complete.