For two years, Lou Drobnick would come home from a hard day's work, eat dinner and hit the sack--until 11 p.m.
Then, he'd wake up and study for a couple of hours, rest a little more and get up at 5 a.m. to hit the books again.
He picked a program at the Culver City campus of Pepperdine University to get his master's degree in business administration because it allowed him to attend classes on Friday nights and all day Saturday every three weeks. Drobnick, a professional fund-raiser, is part of a growing number of people who are turning to postgraduate studies at nights and on weekends in an effort to advance or change careers.
"You really have to be committed," said Drobnick, a 43-year-old father of three, who recently received his master's degree.
"Going to school full time was not an option. I had too many responsibilities."
To meet the needs of students such as Drobnick, Pepperdine offers several master's degree programs at sites away from its main Malibu campus. At other schools, including USC, postgraduate classes are beamed into companies via television. And at other institutions, such as UCLA, evening courses are available through formal extension programs.
"Most universities are finding that the market for teaching in the traditional way is not as popular anymore," said Rick Mouer, director of external relations for Pepperdine's School of Business. "People who work and have families want to continue their educations without having to dramatically change their lifestyles."
Most experts agree that receiving an education in the traditional way--attending high school, then college and then graduate school--is often no longer practical. "The pace at which information is available has changed," said Peter Syverson a spokesman for the Washington-based Council of Graduate Schools. "If people want to keep up they have to continue to study. We are moving into a milieu of lifetime education."
Because people seek postgraduate study for different reasons--sometimes to advance their careers, other times for the pleasure of learning--universities offer a wide range of options.
At Pepperdine, so-called "mid-career students" can earn master's degrees through the graduate schools of Education and Psychology, and Business and Management, both located in Culver City. Courses, which are offered at night and on weekends, also are available at education centers in Irvine, Encino and Long Beach. "We're trying to bring the school to where the people are," explained James Woodrow, assistant dean at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology.
That's exactly what directors of USC's engineering school had in mind when they set up a program to teach by television at about 30 locations, including Hughes Aircraft Co. and TRW Inc.
"People can get a master's degree without ever coming onto the campus," said Jack Munushian, director of the school's Instructional Television Network.
Although USC disbanded its College of Continuing Education about three years ago, many of the courses once taught there are now offered by individual schools at the university.
At the engineering school, for instance, 70 courses are taught each semester via two-way television. The courses are transmitted live from campus during regular classes. "Students who are at the companies can interrupt and ask questions just like the students who are in the classroom," Munushian said. A campus courier service brings class material to the companies and picks up the students' homework.
UCLA's degree programs are primarily designed for full-time matriculating students. But part-time students can take about 4,500 classes offered through the extension program each year. Most of the courses are taught at night and range from fiction writing to cooking to financial planning.
Though students cannot earn degrees through the extension program, they can receive a certificate, which requires completing course work in a specific area of study, like television and film production or interior design.
Michael Calzada, a 36-year-old associate planner for the city of Inglewood, has been enrolled in the certificate program for landscape architecture since 1989. Although he has a bachelor's degree in public affairs, Calzada hopes to eventually change his career. In the meantime, he said, it's "a no-lose situation."
"It pays off day to day in my current career," he said. "Before I went to UCLA, (my bosses) saw me as a paper pusher. Now they see me as their in-house expert on landscape design as well as architectural designs. It's a plus for everyone."