President Mantella envisions Grand Valley as leader in returning adult education

President Mantella speaking before legislators in Lansing.
President Philomena V. Mantella spoke to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and Community Colleges on March 17 in Lansing.
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If Michigan hopes to retain its pool of workforce talent and encourage economic growth, it will need a new approach, President Philomena V. Mantella told legislators on March 17 in Lansing. 

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and Community Colleges, chaired by Rep. Ben Frederick of Owosso, invited Mantella and three other university and college officials to speak about innovations in adult-centered education and workforce development, including the work GVSU is already doing to better serve working adults.

“There are two million Michigan residents with some college credit but no degree,” said Mantella. Addressing this gap should be a priority for these persons and their employers, Mantella told lawmakers. “We are talking about keeping our talent in the state and keeping our economy competitive. Our university embraces the opportunity to think about education in different ways and how we can give people opportunities in all ages and phases of their lives,” said Mantella.

In her presentation to the subcommittee, Mantella pointed out that in GVSU’s adult-designed bachelor’s completion program, the Bachelor of Integrative Studies, we are retaining 82 percent of our adult learners, nearly double the national average of other institutions. “One of the things that was really important to me when I came to GVSU was the opportunity to take this incredible teaching and learning institution, this range of academic assets, and make it available to adult learners,” said Mantella. 

Sustaining what she called “Michigan’s Great Renaissance,” Mantella urged state policy makers to work with universities and employers in partnerships that focus on the state’s high-tech manufacturing along with growing industries in finance, business, agriculture, and health care. 

Looking to the future, universities need to recognize and award credit for the learning that adults bring with them. Grand Valley’s new Prior Learning program enables adults to demonstrate what they have learned through work and life experience, and earn college credit. Another approach is competency-based education, a model that Michigan residents currently must pursue largely by enrolling in out-of-state institutions. 

When it comes to developing a Michigan-based home for competency-based education, Mantella said Grand Valley aspires to be a leader in its formation and is offering to do so in collaboration with other universities. “There are times where we as institutions compete, but there are times like this where we have to share,” she said. 

— Vice President of University Relations Matthew McLogan contributed to this story.