Adult Students Need ‘More Ladders and Fewer Chutes’

Widen the paths to and through higher ed.

Chutes and Ladders is a fun game for kids. It’s also a pretty apt allegory for the ups and downs that adults and other nontraditional students encounter as they try to make their way through college. So when it came time for the folks at Higher Learning Advocates to debut their “Widen the Path” campaign to members of Congress, two specially crafted versions of the game seemed the perfect props.

The chutes-heavy version highlights obstacles — credits that won’t transfer, disruptions in child care, unreliable transportation — that commonly derail older students. The ladder-laden version, meanwhile, offers boosts like credit for prior learning. On a Tuesday late last month, staff members from the bipartisan organization delivered the games to more than 150 congressional offices around the Capitol.

The campaign calling for “more ladders and fewer chutes” wasn’t your typical lobbying effort. Higher Learning Advocates wasn’t pushing specific legislation (at least not yet). Rather, with time running out on this session of Congress, HLA was looking to begin normalizing among policy leaders the idea that “today’s students” (its preferred term) need more support for the varied ways they pursue postsecondary education and training, according to Julie Peller, the group’s executive director. The onus now falls too heavily on students to find their way through, Peller told me. And when they do, that’s often “in spite of policy,” she added, “not because of it.”

Read The Chronicle‘s full story here.