Adult Students in Higher Education Statistics
The Rise of Adult Students
Adult Career Changes: BLS’s Fastest Growing U.S. Occupations
Reasons for the Increase in Adult Student Enrollment
- Increasing competition. Older workers are faced with increasing competition from younger employees who are more educated in the latest technology. They feel the need to improve or update their education, especially in digital technology, to keep up with the latest trends and developments in their fields. Otherwise, they face the risk of career stagnation or being overlooked for promotion in favor of younger workers.
- Ease of access to education. The growth of online education has made it easier for people of all ages to enroll in degree or certificate programs. In addition, more of these programs have gained accreditation, making these qualifications readily accepted in the workplace.
- Job dissatisfaction. Many workers who are unhappy in their jobs are realizing that further education could be the key to enabling them to make a career change and improve their employment situation.
- Job loss. Older people who have been laid off by their employers may have exhausted all avenues to find another job. Further education to back up the practical experience in their chosen fields can significantly help their chances of landing another job.
- Career change. Veterans, in particular, and other demographic groups, such as stay-at-home moms, are looking to change careers and gain mainstream employment. Earning another qualification is the first step in making them more employable. Others are just extremely unhappy in their jobs and want an additional qualification to make a complete career change.
- Financial necessity. Many people in a later stage of life are forced by financial necessity to look for new employment or better-paying jobs.
The Major Challenges Facing Adult Learners
- Finances. Adult learners may have legitimate concerns about how they are going to pay for their studies. Unlike many traditional students fresh out of high school, these learners are less likely to have parents or other family members who can financially support their studies.
- Lack of time. This is a very real perception by many adults who already face the challenge of balancing work, family, and other commitments. Trying to find the time to study as well may seem difficult.
- Lack of confidence. Adult students may have been away from the classroom for many years and lack confidence in their ability to excel. They could also fear that they may be left behind by fellow students.
- Social anxiety. Older students may fear that they won’t fit in with their classmates and may be ostracized or isolated. This is a challenge for people with poor social skills.
- Access to classes. Some adults may not have access to transport to attend traditional classes, while others may not have the facilities to access classes online from home.
- Lack of support. Starting out on a new study program can be worrisome for most people, but it can seem daunting for adults. They can benefit from a support system to help them overcome their concerns.
Meeting the Needs of Adult Students
- Helping to meet financial needs. Many educational institutions have scholarships or grants to help deserving students meet the cost of their studies. Students may also have access to loans from government and outside financial institutions in many cases.
- Addressing a lack of confidence. Nontraditional students who have not studied for many years may have a legitimate concern that they will not be able to cope with the program workload. Many of them may not have the digital skills that are required for their particular program of study. Institutions should assess students’ abilities before they start a degree program and recommend that students bridge courses where applicable to help them cope.
- Helping to overcome anxiety. Counseling can help students overcome their fear of feeling too old for the class or being socially isolated. Counselors can identify strengths and make older students realize that their years of experience in the workplace can add immense value to the group and quickly grant them acceptance.
- Facilitating access to study programs. Many colleges and educational institutions offer online degree programs for students, making it easier for individuals who are working full-time to pursue an education. Some colleges offer blended programs, where students can attend traditional classes at schools when it suits their schedules and can also study online. Colleges may also be able to provide advice on financial assistance to enable remote students to purchase computers.
Adult Student Statistics
- 38 percent of undergraduates are older than 25.
- 58 percent of students work while enrolled in college.
- 26 percent are raising families.
- 40 percent attend school or college part time.
- Students of color are especially likely to be balancing college studies with parenting or work responsibilities.
Projected Adult Learner Statistics
- Structure flexible financial aid policies for adult students
- Provide mechanisms to award credit toward certification for prior learning assessment, competency-based education, and online courses
- Implement support systems for adult learners
- Provide access to course content through multiple formats
Benefits of Online College Courses for Adult Students
- Flexibility. Online study programs offered in asynchronous formats typically enable you to work at your own pace, within provided time frames each week. You can schedule time for study at any time during your day to suit your lifestyle, including family responsibilities. Through mobile technology, online learning allows you to access the study program wherever you are and at your convenience.
- Study while working. This is probably the biggest benefit of signing up for online college courses. Because online classes typically have more flexibility than on-campus degree programs, you don’t have to resign from your job to pursue your studies. This is essential for working adults who depend on their employment income to fund their daily lives.
- Reduced costs. You don’t have to travel to classes as you would do in a traditional setting. Furthermore, the number of associated fees for online educational programs may sometimes be less than those charged to attend traditional classes at a school, college, or university. Studying from home or work also removes the need to pay campus room and board fees, or to find lodging near your school.
- Easy access to course facilitators. You may have been led to believe that an online study program will isolate you from course instructors; however, today’s digital technology enables you to have access to your lecturer, facilitator, or professor via a number of channels, including email, video, telephone, and chat groups.
- Easy communication with fellow students. Technology also allows you to connect with other learners through discussion forums, Skype, and chat groups.