William Paterson University Establishes College of Adult and Professional Studies

Adult learners gather after the undergraduate Commencement ceremony in May. Joining them, at the far right, are President Richard Helldobler and Kara Rabbitt, associate provost for academic initiatives and adult and professional studies.

William Paterson University in Wayne, a leader in New Jersey in enrolling and graduating adult learners, is transforming its School of Continuing and Professional Education into a College of Adult and Professional Studies. The new college, effective as of July 1, 2024, provides innovative approaches to meeting the needs of adult learners, including those who are among the more than 750,000 New Jersey residents who have some college credits but no degree.

The new college will be home to the University’s more than 3,500 adult learners seeking to build community with peers, gain support for credit for prior learning, and discover pathways from non-credit training into William Paterson’s for-credit programs. William Paterson has doubled its campus percentage of adult learners over the past five years. 

“Our new College of Adult and Professional Studies will focus on meeting the distinct needs of the growing number of adult learners in New Jersey and beyond who are seeking degree completion, professional certification, or alternate credentials to achieve their educational goals and enhance their career,” says University President Richard J. Helldobler.

Through its unique, integrated system of advising and coaching, the college will provide William Paterson University adult learners with personalized pathways to obtain credit for prior learning and life experiences, navigate academic and student finance processes, and benefit from a strong array of support services tailored to their busy lives.

“Our adult learners can choose academic programs leading to a bachelor’s degree, professional certifications, and non-credit offerings that support career advancement and transition,” says Joshua Powers, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Our academic programs are aligned with regional, state, and national in-demand industry sectors and include online, in-person, and hybrid offerings for maximum flexibility.”

Kara Rabbitt, who serves as associate provost for academic initiatives and adult and professional studies, will oversee the new college. She previously served as dean and associate dean of the University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In her role as associate provost, she has worked to expand William Paterson’s programs serving adult populations, including expanding undergraduate degree completion options in the University’s WP Online platform, which currently offers 65 fully online bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate programs.

The college will house the University’s Center for Degree Completion and Adult Learning, which works with returning students on securing credit for prior learning (CPL) through testing, portfolio assessment of related work experience, and credit equivalency options for professional training and credentials. The center also provides onboarding for returning adult learners, targeted programming related to career supports, well-being, and academic resources. An innovative “Peer Career Learning” cohort experience, offered through the center, helps adult learners build peer networking connections and career readiness skills, while supporting opportunities to earn credit for prior learning.

In 2021, William Paterson launched a bachelor’s degree in leadership and professional studies, the only such degree in New Jersey at the time and one of a few such programs in the country. The degree program, offered both on campus and through WP Online, is designed to provide returning adult learners with a highly flexible structure that allows them to build on professional knowledge and previously earned credits to meet degree requirements.