Around the world, industry continues to be driven by the onrush of technology and information. As a result, businesses are demanding employees with more up-to-date knowledge and skills than ever before. Combine this with an increasingly competitive global market, and the message is clear: the American workforce can no longer afford to terminate its education at the high school level.

According to recent government statistics, only 21% of the American workforce holds a degree. The demand for college-educated employees, however, is increasing dramatically. At the same time, our workforce cannot afford to quit working to attend school full-time. To stay on top of a rapidly changing world, working adults must continually update their knowledge and skills while they work.

As a result, more and more working adults are seeking degrees. In fact, in the next decade, working professionals are projected to comprise the majority of all college students. One of the schools answering the needs of this vastly under-served market is the mission of University of Phoenix.

Every year, University of Phoenix makes it possible for tens of thousands of working adults across the nation to acquire valuable skills without interrupting their careers. To do this, the University employs a unique educational format that recognizes the difference between adult students who have years of experience and younger students who have none. The University appreciates the difference between younger college students who are still deciding on a career and adults who have established and achieved career goals. The average University of Phoenix student is 35 years old, has an annual family income of $65,000, and 13 years of work experience. By leveraging this wealth of student knowledge, the University is able to cover more ground in less time.

Because University of Phoenix programs are market driven, curriculum is influenced by the needs of industry within the communities served. Faculty are drawn from the leaders of local business and industry in order to provide the most current and relevant education. To maintain the highest educational standards, curricula are continually reviewed and updated by faculty-based committees, with input from student, employers, community leaders and university administrators. Faculty are required to hold a doctoral or master's degree and be currently working in the fields they teach. A rigorous faculty development process further ensures that our instructors are adept at facilitating a dynamic learning environment.

Classes emphasize real-world application supported by academic theory. Thought provoking, skill-enhancing courses are taught by accomplished professionals with an emphasis on teaching students how to apply this new knowledge effectively and immediately thereby contributing to the success of their employers. Classes are scheduled just one evening a week to accommodate the demands of a working adult's schedule without compromising educational integrity. Students take one course at a time, providing a concentrated five or six week immersion in a single subject the way adults learn best.

Although the University is large, its orientation is highly specialized, with individual attention the norm rather than the exception. Class sizes average about 20 students, so an intensive, energetic learning environment can be created. Early in the program, students form study groups of three to five members. Study groups discuss assignments and work together on projects, developing a collective base of knowledge and experience to draw upon. Not only does this enhance their learning of course work, it is also a reflection of today's real-life work environment. Students learn team-building procedures and techniques, critical thinking skills and how to collaborate, communicate and lead.

Kay Corgan is Marketing Manager with University of Phoenix Southern California Campus.

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