Barry University taps growing education market for ‘extended’ learning

Andrea Keener was selected as Barry University’s new provost for extended learning.
Andrea Keener was selected as Barry University’s new provost for extended learning.

Barry University created a brand-new position designed to take advantage of a growing market in higher education — “extended” learning.

Andrea Keener, who began as associate vice provost for extended learning at Barry University in July, has worked for the Miami Shores-based private Catholic university since 2005.

In 2012 she took over as dean of Barry’s school of adult and continuing education. The program, now called the school of professional and career education, has academic and professional development programs for “nontraditional” students. Her new role puts her in charge of creating more of these extended learning classes — either online, face-to-face or a hybrid — throughout Barry’s sites.

“The ability to do this on a grander scale — I just find that so exciting,” Keener said.

Nontraditional college students are either older than 24, lack a traditional high school diploma, have dependents to care for, are financially independent, are employed full time or attend school part time. Their educational needs don’t necessarily align with their peers who went straight to college from high school.

Data show nontraditional students are going back to school apace with their younger peers who followed a more linear path, but the National Center for Education Statistics predicts that by 2024, growth in nontraditional enrollment will eclipse traditional student enrollment.

In the last year, Keener said Barry’s extended learning program had about 2,300 enrolled students.

“This is an attempt to institutionally widen our footprint,” she said.

New profitable programs are important to a school that faces an $8 million revenue gap this year because of falling enrollment and a decline in tuition revenue. Top Barry execs are meeting with representatives of the other struggling, private Catholic university, Miami Gardens-based St. Thomas University, over the summer to discuss a “strategic alliance” between the schools.

Clarification: An earlier headline on this story referenced Andrea Keener as a provost. Barry’s provost is Dr. John Murray.

Alex Harris: 305-376-5005, @harrisalexc