(Posted May 22, 2001)
HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Many young men and women fresh out of high school dream of earning a college degree, but Juniata College offers a reduced tuition program that opens opportunities to returning adult students who may have deferred the dream of a college degree to raise a family or start a working career.
The Program for Area Residents, known as PAR at Juniata, offers to reduce Juniata's tuition by half to residents of Huntingdon, Blair, Mifflin, Bedford, Centre, Fulton, Franklin and Juniata counties. The program is open to any adult who has been out of high school for at least five years and is willing to commute to Juniata's campus. In addition, any returning adult student cannot have attended Juniata as a degree-seeking student within the past two years.
"In addition to the tuition break, financial aid is available to those who qualify," says Elizabeth Homistek, a PAR student from Harrisonville who graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in art management and communication. Homistek, who graduated from high school in 1986, returned to school after being self-employed as a home restoration and conversion consultant.
"After checking several options, Juniata's reduced tuition was less than the cost of attending Penn State campuses," says Luanne Albright, currently a sophomore PAR student at Juniata studying computer science. Albright, a resident of Altoona, graduated from high school in 1976 and worked as an administrative assistant at the Blair County Courthouse before returning to college. Albright's daughter, Amanda, graduated this year from Juniata with a bachelor's degree in geology.
The PAR program is open to any student interested in full- or part-time study. Participants in the program can enroll in a degree-granting course of study or take individual classes that might make them more marketable in their current career. For more information on the program, please call Brett Basom, senior associate director of admissions, at (814) 641-3427.
"It was a serious life-changing experience for me," says Randy Watkins, who teaches fifth grade at Southside Elementary School in Huntingdon. Watkins earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1999 after being out of school since 1982. The Robertsdale native had been self-employed before returning to school. "It was not easy -- there was a lot of work involved, and I basically lost any leisure time. But, the support system at Juniata is very strong. They ask a lot of you, but that prepared me well for this job."
All PAR students commute to Juniata. Homistek, who has a daughter, Cody, 13, and a son, Hunter, 10, drove for more than an hour to get to the campus. "I came to Juniata to get a very specific type of art education," she says. "The art management program is one of only four like it in the country."
Homistek also organized and became the first president of a student group for PAR students, called Program for Area Residents Support Organization (PARSO). According to the admissions office, there are about 60 to 80 PAR students studying at Juniata during any academic year.
Albright found that returning to school was both challenging and energizing. "When I sat down in my first class, no one sat anywhere near me," she says with a laugh. "To be surrounded by 19-year-old kids in each class is a bit of a culture shock."
Homistek says Juniata's faculty provides much more personalized instruction and smaller class sizes. She also praises the internship opportunities available to all students. She participated in a yearlong internship to prepare, research and write a report on the restoration of a historic house on campus.
"I've always wanted to go back to school very badly," Albright says. "The fact that I've done it and made it through the first year is empowering."
Contact John Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 641-3132 for more information.