More than 200 adults have finished degrees at Kentucky's public universities through a 2-year-old program that provides advising and financial help for students whose first try at college was interrupted.
The number of graduates in the program, Project Graduate, has more than doubled, from 99 in December to 203 after this summer's session, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education reported Monday.
Project Graduate specifically targets those who left Kentucky colleges in 2005 or earlier with at least 90 credit hours but no degree.
"It's incredibly important to the adults, their families and children and the state's economic competitiveness," said Robert L. King, the council's president.
This summer, at least 211 students were taking 798 credit hours, which generated nearly $300,000 in tuition at the eight public universities, according to the council's figures. Ten independent colleges in Kentucky also participate in the project, but enrollment and graduation numbers weren't available for them.
More than half a million Kentuckians have taken some college courses, but don't have a degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of those, 11,000 between the ages of 25 and 50 have earned at least 90 credits but didn't graduate.
The project sets returning students up with an adviser, determines which courses that student still needs to take and waives certain fees.
The University of Kentucky accounts for 44 of the graduates who returned through the program, said Cecile McKinney, director of UK's adult student services.
McKinney's office invited 926 former students back to UK through Project Graduate. To date, UK has received responses from 440 who are eligible, McKinney said.
"We just kind of pinch ourselves," she said. "We did not anticipate such a wonderful response and so many successes."
Interest has been so high that her office has been inundated with calls and adults who want to return to college but might not qualify for Project Graduate because they didn't have enough credits or left school since 2006.
Still, any adults interested in returning or tackling a degree for the first time can attend Thursday's adult education workshop 7-9 p.m. in Room 206 of UK's student center.
The workshop will feature financial aid and academic advisers, as well as an admission officer to help with undergraduate and graduate enrollment and Bluegrass Community and Technical College, she said.
With Kentucky employers still shedding jobs, McKinney said more Kentuckians are opting to return to school to cultivate new skills and enhance their resumes.
More than 75 adults showed up at last spring's orientation workshop — a record attendance for the 10 years UK has held the event.
For information about the workshop, go to www.uky.edu/AdultSS. For details about Project Graduate, visit www.knowhow2goky.org.