LeMoyne-Owen College's Accelerated Studies for Adult Professionals Program creates a path for working students to obtain a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management or Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Classes such as this one now are offered via remote learning. (Courtesy photo)

by Alisha Tillery —

When Lakeisha Cooper graduated from high school in 2005, she enrolled in the University of Memphis, but the transition from high school to college wasn’t an easy one.

By her sophomore year, her grades had suffered. She gave birth to her first child and, to provide for him, abandoned post-secondary education to work at a large warehousing company as a package handler.

Lakeisha Cooper and Terrence Cooper. (Courtesy photo)

There, she met and married her husband, Terrence. Later, as their family grew, she tried school again, enrolling in Southwest Tennessee Community College. The schedule proved to be even more challenging than before.

Terrence, a Michigan native, hadn’t finished his degree either and set his sights on going back to school. Always wanting to have the HBCU experience, he enrolled in LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC) as a traditional student, and later transferred to the Accelerated Studies for Adult Professionals (ASAP) Program.

The ASAP Program allows working students to attend evening or Saturday classes to obtain a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management or Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. It was perfect for him as a full-time employee working extended hours.

“The ASAP Program targets the person who started college and then life happened,” said Business and Economic Development Division Chair Dr. Katherine Causey. “The classes are accelerated with the intention that the adult student already has had some type of experience by working in an industry, so they don’t need as much in-class instruction.”

Causey said students’ instruction and learning also happen outside of the classroom. In addition to their core curriculum, they can take specialized courses aligned with their degree, such as marketing, supply-chain management, human resources and finance. Both students with and without prior college credits are enrolled in the program.

When Causey joined LOC more than 15 years ago, she surveyed Census data for the Greater Memphis area to determine about 20 percent of the population started college but did not finish.

The program has proven to be effective as completion rates for 2017 and 2018 consecutively have been nearly 60 percent.

Program completion duration depends on how many credits a student enters the program with from a previous institution. Many of LOC’s graduates go on to obtain post-graduate degrees as well as doctoral degrees, particularly in International Business.

In 2017, while pregnant with their second child and visiting LOC with her husband, Cooper met her admissions counselor, who encouraged her to also enroll in the ASAP Program.

She resisted, but soon after giving birth to her daughter, she’d enrolled with freshman credits, officially becoming a LOC student.

Cooper knew she needed a more diverse skill set to help her transition out of the warehousing industry, to, in turn, increase her income and allow her to spend more time with her family. It has been a great investment.

“Coming out of the ASAP Program, you’re ready, fully experienced,” Cooper said. “The professors work to make sure when you graduate from LeMoyne-Owen College, you can say it with pride, and people will respect it.”

As ASAP students, who usually are age 25 and up, the Coopers were integrated into the student body like traditional students. This is not the usual situation for some education programs for nontraditional students.

They became involved in the Business Student Association and each joined a fraternity and sorority. She encourages any working adult who wants to finish or begin college to consider the program.

“It allows you to be on a fast track, learn and get out of there and still be available to your family,” Cooper said.

But more than the education, they became a part of a bigger family. LeMoyne-Owen College, affectionately called the LOC Family, is known for its intimate classroom settings and close-knit faculty, staff and student body. The same goes for the ASAP Program, which currently has more than 300 students, making it the largest program at the college. Students usually start and complete the program with a small cohort of about 15 classmates.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought Cooper and her classmates closer. They have been in contact daily about upcoming assignments via email and conference calls in preparation for their classes, which have been moved to remote learning.

Cooper’s husband, who graduated fall 2018, has since been promoted to a leadership position in warehousing and is enrolled in graduate school.

She will graduate with her Bachelor of Science of Business Administration in Spring 2020. While she completes the program, she has secured alternative employment in the service industry, which has a higher pay and allows her to spend more time with her family.

Her goal after graduation is to secure even better employment with a set schedule and ultimately, complete flight training to receive her pilot’s license.

The Accelerated Program is a part of the Division of Business and Economic Development, which recently received top accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). For more information about the ASAP Program and admission requirements, visit loc.edu.