The number of students enrolled in adult and graduate programs at Goshen College this fall more than doubled from a year ago, driven significantly by a demand from local schools for teachers, and especially teachers who specialize in working with students for whom English is their second language.

GC enrolled 102 students in adult and graduate programs this fall, a 149% increase from 41 one year ago. The program has a variety of offerings, including new online classes in transition to teaching, an English Learner’s (EL) certification, a bachelor’s in business management and a Master of Social Work (MSW).

“After several years in which Covid headwinds challenged our ability to recruit adult students, we’re pleased to see this high level of interest in graduate, degree-completion and certificate programs at Goshen College,” said Duane Stoltzfus, director of adult and graduate programs and chair of the communication department.

“This year a majority of students that are studying adult and graduate programs are studying online and that represents a shift for us that is a groundbreaking advance for GC,” Stoltzfus said. 

Online class instruction is offered in both a synchronous format, in which a professor and students meet together via Zoom, and an asynchronous format, in which students will complete activities and watch lectures and lessons on their own schedules. 

Will Johnson, a recently enrolled communication major, had been looking for options to continue  education. Having an associate’s degree in mortuary science and working in marketing for a number of years, he was looking for a way to complete his bachelor’s.  

“I am just in such a different stage of life, and kids and all that stuff, and then I was like, ‘Wait, no, there is a program that is geared for this exact thing,’” Johnson said. “[I] came across the adult studies program and I was like, ‘Hey, … that looks like what I need to accomplish.’ … The smaller nature of Goshen College was really huge to me. It made it feel manageable [and] made it feel doable.”

The largest program this semester is for students looking to get their EL certification.

“This year that was one of the things that local school districts were very interested in — having their teachers obtain an English licensure,” said Maynard Miller, the adult and graduate programs admissions counselor. “It’s a specific license to teach kids whose first language is not English. There is a strong need for that.”

The incoming class includes 46 students who are working teachers studying for their EL license, as well as 10 students who are seeking to earn their state teaching license. GC’s EL license has fewer credit requirements than some other colleges while still maintaining all state standards.

“We try to be really personal and flexible to respond to what our individual students need,” said Suzanne Ehst, education professor and program director for EL and transition to teaching. “We are committed to the students until they pass.” According to her, professors take time to evaluate prior tests and create new study strategies for a better outcome. 

The incoming class also included 11 students recruited by GC for the inaugural cohort in a MSW program that is being launched in partnership with Bluffton University in Ohio. 

“Master of Social Work is available to anybody who is interested in joining,” said Jeanette Harder, the MSW program director and a professor of social work. “The program is very welcoming for students that do not have a background in social work.” 

Students can also enroll from around the world. Currently, seven of the 11 are from Elkhart County, one is from southern Indiana, two are out-of-state and one is joining remotely from Sweden. The program can be completed in as short as two years or as long as four years, offering flexibility to fit classes in a more complex schedule, according to Harder.

The success of the adult and graduate programs lies in more than just the embracing of online coursework. It is also the commitment of GC to improving the community through education.  

“We are always in conversations internally about what we are offering, what we could offer, where the needs are, what the interests are,” Stoltzfus said. “We also are wanting to speak with community partners, local businesses and organizations on what they are seeing as areas in which we can make meaningful contributions.”


A correction was made on Oct. 5, 2023: In an earlier version of this article, we had a mathematical error that mischaracterized the enrollment growth as a 249% increase, when it is a 149% increase.