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The Right Place—Anywhere

1/12/2023

Whether From Your Couch or the Classroom, Earning a Mount Degree Has Never Been Easier

This story originally appeared in the 2022 Annual Report.

Two male students study at a computer in a classroom.

Education will always be at the center of the Mount’s mission. It has been since our founding in 1847.

The Sisters of Charity, our foundresses, have never shied away from bringing quality education to those on the margins. 175 years later, the College is proud to carry on the Congregation’s tradition of providing equal access to academics—extending the audacious work of the Sisters to bring transformative education to learners from all corners of the Bronx and beyond.

Mount students are remarkable. They come to the College to study, grow, and develop both within and beyond the classroom. Nearly 50% of our traditional undergraduate population is eligible for Federal Pell Grants—meaning their median household income falls within the percentage of greatest need among degree-seeking students in the country. The College has also been identified by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), meaning at least 25% of the total enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students identify as Hispanic or Latinx. Serving the underserved has always been something the College has done remarkably well, but a new demographic cliff looms overhead.

Colleges and universities around the nation are facing an impending demographic cliff that will reshape the practice of higher education. The cliff—a direct result of the significant decline in U.S. birthrate following the 2007 recession—will rewrite the definition of the “traditional” college student as declining enrollment trends will impact every area of campus life. Although the cliff is not projected to begin until 2025, many schools have already felt the effects of decreased enrollments as a result of the pandemic.

The Mount, however, has been challenging those trends long before this demographic cliff was even defined.

In 1972, the College began the Continuing Education Program in an effort to bring the same quality Mount Saint Vincent education to non-traditional students. The program targeted adult learners who started college, but—for a variety of reasons—did not earn a degree, as well as those adults who did not enroll in college immediately following graduation from high school. The program was groundbreaking for its time, as there were few other schools in the area—and in the nation, at large—offering undergraduate coursework to adult learners.

The Continuing Education Program ran successfully for almost two decades before becoming the Office of Adult Education in 1989. The program remained largely the same, but offerings to adult learners broadened after the College’s charter was amended in 1988 to allow for the conferring of master’s degrees. In 2005, the Office expanded yet again to form the School of Professional and Graduate Studies—which continues to successfully operate today.

But, with passing decades comes new challenges—including finding ways to make completing an undergraduate degree or starting a graduate degree not only attractive, but attainable for non-traditional groups of learners. It all connects back to the Mount’s history of serving the traditionally underserved and, as President Susan R. Burns so firmly believes: “meeting learners when and where they need us.”

The College has made an intentional transition to online education—our first delve into non-pandemic related emergency use of an alternative learning modality—for a select few undergraduate and graduate programs. It’s yet another example of how the Mount is advancing its commitment to expanding access to higher education for learners with a variety of needs.

“When researching new online offerings for graduate and degree-completion programs, we have to look at what’s sustainable, what’s appealing. Our undergraduate programs are still at the foundation of the College’s mission. But by diversifying the modalities in which we offer coursework for adult learners—including developing more hybrid and online course options—we’re making earning a degree both accessible and attainable for thousands more students.”

— Cristóbal Stewart, Dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies

Two of the College’s existing graduate programs—the M.S. in education and accelerated B.S. in nursing—will now offer partially- and fully-online courses for graduate students to enroll and complete degrees in under three years, saving them time and money. Additionally, the Mount will soon offer online degree-completion courses for a B.A. in psychology and a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies. This is all made possible through new collaborations with two leaders in online program management: Academic Partnerships (AP) and Orbis Education.

The M.S. in education coursework, as well as classes for the degree-completion undergraduate programs, will be offered through fully-online asynchronous courses. The accelerated nursing program has launched 16 credits of didactic coursework online—with the goal of having all 61 credits in an online format in the near future.

Classes are developed by Mount faculty members—through consultation by AP and Orbis curriculum designers—with an emphasis on how to best offer course material to students through the online modality.

Adult learners differ from traditional-aged undergraduate students in that they need certain conveniences and flexibilities in order to reach success in their programs. Adult learners—typically—face greater demands of their time compared to students in their late teens and early twenties. Many work full- or part-time jobs, attend to families, or hold other commitments that prevent them from participating in standard in-seat programs.

All of the College’s online programs will offer multiple start dates per year—up to six—and shorter semesters, providing scheduling fluidity. Studies have found that this population of students is more likely to select a program based on convenience of start dates, course frequency, and flexibility of content delivery. As a result, certain foundational and prerequisite courses will be offered each term.

And while these online programs are expanding access to transformative education for learners both near and far, traditional in-seat classes will still be offered at the College’s Riverdale campus—extending paths to graduation for dedicated students eager to earn their degrees.

“Our focus continues to lie in the needs of the students. The modality of content delivery is just a tool. As a leader in higher education, the Mount must remain committed to flexibility and provide greater time management opportunities for typically underserved groups of learners.”

— Dr. Lynne Bongiovanni, Provost and Dean of the College

This is only the beginning. By moving some of the College’s existing programs online, the Mount is doing its part to help address some of the most pressing needs of our country’s job market: shortages in teaching and nursing. But, by taking a small first step, the Mount is opening doors for the transition of more existing programs—and the development of new ones—to the online format in the near future.

With the wisdom and traditions of the Sisters of Charity to guide us, Mount Saint Vincent is challenging the market to bring transformational learning opportunities to students from all backgrounds—traditional and non-traditional alike. Remaining abreast of current trends in higher education, the College will continue to be well prepared to meet enrollment obstacles—researching best practices, developing new ways to deliver programs, and listening to the needs of each and every student.

After all, celebrating 175 years of authentically inclusive education is no small accomplishment. And the College is ready and eager to adapt and expand to be a part of the next 175 and beyond.


About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of professional accomplishment, service, and leadership in the 21st century.