Cañada College offers working adults a chance at associate degrees

Even as California State University and University of California tuitions continue increasing, Cañada College in Redwood City is launching a program this fall designed to make acquiring a degree cheap and easy for working adults.

Cañada’s new College for Working Adults costs about $400 a semester, takes three years to complete and is the first program of its kind in the county to offer credits that are fully transferable to public and private schools, said Jeri Eznekier, assistant director of the new program.

“It’s kind of like being able to do the first two years of your state college at a junior college, which is local and cheaper,” Eznekier said.

Students follow a prearranged schedule of courses and can chose between two distinct associate degree paths, but they don’t have to fight for space, worry about switching majors or evaluate whether other schools will approve their credit, according to administrators and prospective students.

Classes run year-round and will be held Saturday mornings, Thursday nights and online, so working professionals such as Stephanie Culberson can attend.

Culberson, a single mom who does clerical work full time at Stanford University’s Business School, didn’t attend college because she was a teenage mom.

She recently wrote the last check for her daughter’s education at San Francisco State University.

“We had an agreement that once she finished school, it would be my turn,” said Culberson, who plans to pursue a business degree. “They map it all out for you, and this is a godsend for me.”

Siosiua Vea, a full-time administrative assistant at the nonprofit Jobtrain, has been trying to complete his degree for more than a decade. But work and personal matters repeatedly led him to drop out.

A couple years ago, Vea’s friend and mentor, Pat Rose, decided to pay for Vea’s tuition and books.

But when “the old me crept in,” Vea said he dropped out again.

“I didn’t tell her and she passed away without knowing that,” Vea said. “I tried to convince myself not to think about it, but it kept coming up and it was just killing me.

“They’ve beat all the excuses out of anyone looking at this.”

Vea said he is determined to complete his studies this time. He hopes to eventually transfer to UC Berkeley’s Department of Architecture to complete his bachelor’s degree.

“All the ‘buts’ are taken out. It’s going to have to work,” Vea said.

The program’s costs will come from Measure G, a parcel tax that 67 percent of county voters approved last year to protect programming for the Peninsula’s three community colleges. Measure G allocated about $1 million to Cañada this year, said Janet Stringer, the school’s dean of science and technology, and about 10 percent of that went into the new program.

Measure G funding expires in June 2014, at which point the college will review the program’s success.

Back in class

Cañada College will begin a program in fall that offers working adults an inexpensive and smooth path to an associate’s degree.

Tuition: $36 per credit, plus fees
Course load: Depends on how applicants score on placement tests
Class times: Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings
Duration: Three years, year-round
Interdisciplinary studies associate’s degrees offered: Social and behavioral science; arts and humanities (60-61 units)
Space: 35 slots per semester
Start times: Fall or spring semester

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