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Eckerd discontinues Program for Experienced Learners

By Robbyn Hopewell
Published September 9, 2016
Categories: PEL

New admissions suspended, administrators planning credit transfers

Franklin Templeton building

Eckerd College administrators have announced that the school’s Program for Experienced Learners (PEL), which serves adult students with night and weekend courses in St. Petersburg and Tampa, will stop new enrollment immediately and begin a phase out of the more than 35-year-old program.

The decision comes after years of declining enrollment following an explosion of adult education choices in the Tampa Bay area and a significant shift in the adult education market.

“Our mission always has been to provide a personalized education for undergraduate students. We do an extraordinary job, but lifestyle changes and market demands have made it much more attractive for adult students to take courses online,” said Eckerd College president Donald R. Eastman III. “Our decision to close the program is our recognition that the adult market’s needs have shifted away from something we are really good at and have provided for a long time.”

The College’s Board of Trustees gave administrators full authority over deciding PEL’s future in February 2013. Since that time, the College introduced new course formats, altered marketing and outreach programs, and added focus areas of study, but enrollments continued to decline.

“We sincerely regret the impact this will have on our current students, and we will do all we can to ease the transition for them,” Eastman said.

Founded under Special Programs, PEL offered a liberal arts education to students aged 24 and up seeking to begin or finish a bachelor’s degree. There are more than 5,300 graduates of Eckerd College’s PEL program.