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Starting a Plus 50 Program 
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Reasons for Starting a Plus 50 Encore Completion Program 

More Reasons for Starting a Plus 50 Encore Completion Program

Starting a Plus 50 Program

Successfully starting a Plus 50 program at your community college requires assessing the needs of your plus 50 population and your community. Your program design can then incorporate identified community resources and assets to support your program so you can successfully put your plans in place. This Web site serves as a large repository of information and resources related to Plus 50 programming. College practitioners can utilize these resources to map out action plans to build support and implement strategies for their Plus 50 program.

How to Start a Plus 50 Program on Your Campus 12 Tips for Community Colleges

To successfully start a Plus 50 program for your community college, you must assess community needs and design a program, identify resources and assets in the community to support the program, and then implement the plan that puts the program into place. These twelve tips can help your community college design a Plus 50 program that helps your community. Let's get started!

  1. Involve your college president and senior administrators: Make sure top college administration is involved in the program from its inception. You need the attention and enthusiasm of your college's key players. Create visibility and support for your program by meeting with your college president, public information officer, trustees, deans, and department heads. Share your plans with them, and listen to their input. Institutional support is crucial for the program's implementation and sustainability. To secure continuous support and commitment, keep the president and senior administrators informed about the program's progress.

  2. Determine your audience: Knowing your audience will help focus outreach and maximize resources. Plus 50 adults are not a homogeneous group. They span more than three decades. Their interests range far beyond retirement planning and health concerns. While some plus 50 students enjoy enrichment coursework, many are highly focused on acquiring skills that will get them back on the job or improve their career development. Others want to volunteer and be actively engaged in shaping their communities for their better.

  3. Conduct a needs assessment: Needs assessment is the first step in developing a successful program. Look at census data, demographics, labor force participation, fastest growing occupation statistics, local employment projections, data from the State Department of Professional Regulation, etc. Use other available techniques: direct observation, questionnaires, surveys, consultation with persons in key positions, interviews, and focus groups. Perform an environmental scan of plus 50 programs and services available at other community colleges in your area. Conduct community mapping to assess unmet needs and resources available locally. Identify groups of current plus 50 learners on campus and get them involved in your plans. Don't forget to engage their social networks! Some of these people will likely step up and assist with further needs assessment for your programs.

  4. Assess your resources: Determine the cost of offering plus 50 programs and services for your community college. Consider staff time, marketing and public relations efforts. Will you depend on paid staff or volunteers, or both? Can you secure classrooms and labs? How will you publicize the program? How much time will be involved in reaching out to your audience? The answers to these questions will help you develop programs and services that are achievable within your budget.

  5. Know your community: Each community has different training and service needs. Talk to community leaders to get a grasp of issues, priorities and possibilities. Meet with members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club and other influential organizations to set goals and plan programs that have their support. AARP and SCORE chapters may be especially helpful for you, as well as the Area Agency on Aging or other groups that reach out to plus 50 adults.

  6. Convene a planning or advisory board: Include within the group: campus administration and faculty, community-based organizations and businesses. Encourage the active involvement of representatives from academic divisions, admissions, registration, counseling and advising, continuing education, workforce development, communications and external Relations, and financial aid. Establish how often the group will meet and how they'll communicate. Listen to stakeholders and solicit their input.

  7. Form community partnerships: Look around your community to discover which organizations have similar goals. For example, you could partner with the parks and recreation department, workforce development agency, the local museum, or a public library. When you work with other organizations, you gain their respect and support in solving mutual community problems. You also tap into their valuable networks and contacts.

  8. Set program goals and objectives: Design strategies to monitor program progress. Whether setting up a new program or expanding an existing one to a new audience, formulate measurable outcomes. Be both specific and realistic when stating your goals. By linking your program goals and objectives to your college mission, you will be able to generate campus support. Develop long-term goals, as well as clearly defined first-year goals.

  9. Secure funding: Look for funding within your college. Turn to private foundations, local corporations, business and industry councils, state departments of education, and federal agencies. Look for other forms of support, too, including employer-paid tuition and financial arrangements that will underwrite part or all of the cost of tuition or course fees for students.

  10. Develop an evaluation plan: As you design your program, you must also design your evaluation strategy. Take the pulse of your program as you develop it, by including assessment measures along the way. Evaluation will enable you identify strengths and weaknesses in your program as it grows, and help you make course corrections along the way as you build your program. It will also help you measure your overall success and establish a basis for additional funding.

  11. Create an infrastructure for your program: Define the roles and responsibilities for staff and volunteers. Adequate staffing is essential. Recruit and train faculty members to work with plus 50 learners. Conduct professional development training for faculty and staff.

  12. Participate in training and networking opportunities: Workshops and conferences by national and regional organizations that advocate and support plus 50 students offer opportunities for learning how to reach a variety of audiences. You also need to be familiar with how older adults learn, and what materials and approaches are appropriate for plus 50 learners. Establish professional relationships with other community colleges in your area who work with plus 50 learners, and share strategies and tips with them.


Plus 50 Needs Assessment Toolkit
American Association of Community Colleges, October 2, 2009
This toolkit was developed to help community colleges conduct a needs assessment for the purposes of developing workforce training and career development programming for their local Plus 50 population. It provides a menu of options for data collection strategies.

Jump Start Plus 50

Jump Start Plus 50 is a self-assessment tool that will assist community college professionals in planning and implementing a Plus 50 Initiative program, or in strengthening an already existing Plus 50 program.

Plus 50 Students: Tapping Into a Growing Market
American Association of Community Colleges, March, 2009
Plus 50 students are increasingly turning to community colleges for quick job skill refreshers and career tune-ups. This publication describes what is drawing plus 50 students to community colleges and provides tips on effectively serving them.

Being a Plus 50-Friendly Community College:
The Top Ten Things You Can Do

1. Conduct a needs assessment of the local plus 50 population
2. Tailor admission requirements and financial aid programs to plus 50 adults
3. Provide a dedicated, point-of-contact faculty member for plus 50 students
4. Avoid using words like "senior", "old", and "elder"
5. Prepare counselors to deal with plus 50 student needs
6. Offer short-term courses in condensed blocks of time
7. Coach faculty about teaching plus 50 learners; adapt classrooms to adult learning styles
8. Develop a targeted marketing plan, including specialized publications and websites.
9. Partner with organizations that serve and reach out to plus 50 adults
10. Cultivate support from the CEO and across academic divisions

Plus 50 Business Community Outreach Toolkit
American Association of Community Colleges, November 17, 2009
This toolkit is designed to support community colleges in building partnerships with the business community. It includes a series of fact sheets for employers that discuss the value in hiring plus 50 workers.

Source: Plus 50 Students: Tapping Into a Growing Market
American Association of Community Colleges, March, 2009


To download audio files and PowerPoint presentations from the webinars listed below, please visit our Webinars page.


  • Plus 50 Standards of Excellence
  • Jump Start Plus 50


  • The Plus 50 Initiative: What's In It for You?
  • Tools to Assess the Needs of Your Plus 50 Population
  • The Importance of Stakeholders
  • If You Build It: Promoting Your Program for Adult Learners
  • Understanding the Particular Needs of the Adult Learner
  • Creating and Sustaining Your Program for Adult Learners