Clark College News and Events

Graphic–Clark College News and Events

Clark College News and Events

May 1, 2008
For Immediate Release
For additional information: 
Barbara Kerr, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing


Program Aims to Help Baby Boomers Define Life After 50

VANCOUVER, Wash. – It’s a word none of them like to hear – the dreaded “R” word – retirement. Don’t label them with the “S” word either, because they don’t see themselves as “senior” anything. As they have for decades, the 78 million baby boomers now approaching traditional retirement age want to define life after 50 on their own terms. Now, they will be getting help from America’s community colleges – including Clark College -- through a newly launched “Plus 50 Initiative.”

Clark College has been selected as one of 15 colleges nationwide that will participate in the three-year initiative, which will develop and benchmark models for innovative programs reaching out to students over age 50. The project is funded with a $3.2 million dollar grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies and is led by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Clark College:  Grant success based on program innovation and service

Because of its expertise in reaching out to students over age 50, Clark College will be one of five “mentor” colleges assisting 10 “demonstration” colleges in the Plus 50 Initiative.   Mentor colleges were selected based on their success in program innovation and services.  Clark College will share best practices from their corporate and continuing education programs with two of the demonstration colleges. 

Clark College’s $70,000 grant request was submitted by Todd Oldham, Executive Director of Corporate and Continuing Education at Clark College, and Tracy Reilly Kelly, Continuing Education Program Manager, with support from Clark’s former Director of Grants Development Katharine Brokaw as part of a college-wide effort to increase grant support through the college’s Office of Planning and Advancement.

Tracy Reilly Kelly said, “For more than 35 years, Clark College Mature Learning has been providing superior quality education and cultural enrichment courses for persons age 55 and over. We think that we had a lot to offer AACC in our proven record for this program. But our capacity to meet the future needs of persons age 50 and above is much more than mature learning.  We are excited at the opportunity to create new programming offering skill-based training for second careers.” 

Reilly Kelly, who was honored as one of Southwest Washington’s 2008 Women of Achievement added, “This grant will allow us to address an area of particular need within the 50 + population, which is training and state licensing for healthcare workers that are in short supply across the Pacific Northwest region. We will be expanding our Nursing Assistant Certification and Fundamentals of Caregiving programs.”

According to Reilly Kelly, the Plus 50 Initiative grant will also enable the college to “create higher end curricula, in both online and traditional face- to-face formats.”  She cited examples including training on “Succession Planning” for business retention of older workers.   Reilly Kelly noted, “We intend to provide corporate training to help businesses address the impending problem of losing the immense ‘brain trust’ of current executives in their 60’s as the baby boomers retire.”   

Executive Director of Corporate and Continuing Education Todd Oldham said, “For the baby boomer who is working and approaching retirement from the workplace, a community college course in goal-setting and planning may be a great choice. Others may find classes in literature, philosophy, cooking or another topic to be a great way to follow some of their interests that were put on hold while they raised children and worked full-time.”  Oldham noted, “A class on starting a business can satisfy that entrepreneurial urge and help a plus 50 student map out how to keep income flowing even after traditional retirement.”

Clark College President Robert K. Knight said the grant will help the college “use Campus CE -- Corporate & Continuing Education's new online enrollment management system -- to better serve our 50 plus students.”  Knight added, “Being selected as a mentor college is especially gratifying because it recognizes the great work that our faculty and staff have done over the years and it compliments our goals as a teaching and learning center.” 

Knight noted that Clark College at Columbia Tech Center, which is scheduled to open in fall 2009, will feature state of the art facilities and technology to host leisure and enrichment classes as part of the college’s Corporate and Continuing Education program. A new kitchen classroom will be the setting for wine hobbyist business classes as well as wine and cooking classes incorporating nutrition, ethnic cooking and local agriculture.

Mentor and Demonstration Colleges

Mentor colleges receiving grants are: Cape Cod Community College (West Barnstable, Mass.), Central Florida Community College (Ocala, Fla.), Century College (White Bear Lake, Minn.), Clark College (Vancouver, Wash.) and Community College of Spokane (Wash.)

Demonstration colleges receiving grants are:  Chaffey Community College (Cucamonga, Calif.), Clover Park Technical College (Lakewood, Wash.), Joliet Junior College (Joliet, Ill.), Luzerne County Community College (Nanticoke, Pa.), Northern Virginia Community College (near Washington, D.C.), Richland College which is part of the Dallas County Community College District (Texas), Santa Fe Community College (Gainesville, Fla.), St. Louis Community College (St. Louis, Mo.), Wake Technical Community College, (Raleigh, N.C.) and Western Dakota Technical Institute (Rapid City, S.D.)


50 Plus Issues & Educational Opportunities

With life expectancies at record highs, many boomers expect to spend as many as three decades in retirement. Their imminent generational departure from the workforce is creating anxiety among employers and civic organizations that worry about a loss of skills, leadership and institutional memory.

Today’s baby boomers see their lives after 50 as a melding of education, employment and leisure, with four out of five people over 50 saying they plan to work at least part-time in retirement, according to Civic Ventures, a California-based think tank that focuses on engaging baby boomers. Yet 62 percent of the boomer generation wishes they were better prepared for retirement, according to a 2006 MetLife study.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), community colleges are ideally suited to help baby boomers determine how to make their bonus years productive and fulfilling. Community colleges have historically met the needs of non-traditional students, with 16 percent of their student population over age 40 and their average student age capping well above traditional four-year colleges at 29 years.

Five million of the 11.5 million community college students today are not pursuing traditional for-credit degree programs. Instead, they are opting for certificates, training classes, and exploratory programs through community college programs that offer easy access, flexible scheduling and shorter-term learning experiences.

About the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)

For 88 years, the AACC has been the leading advocate for the nation’s community colleges, which currently number more than 1,125 and serve more than 12 million students annually. Its membership comprises 95% of all public two-year colleges – the largest, most accessible, most diverse sector of U.S. higher education. As institutions committed to access, community service and lifelong learning, community colleges have long-focused on the needs of adults who are already in the workforce, many of whom are seeking new skills and knowledge for changes in their lives and careers.



To learn more about efforts by AACC member colleges to respond to students aged 50 and above, please contact Norma Kent at or by calling 202-728-0200. To learn more about the AACC and The Atlantic Philanthropies, visit and .

Pixel Shim
Pixel Shim