Adult Learners Are Heading to College in Record Numbers

You’re a working adult who has made the decision to go back to college. You may be thinking of an online program to get that degree that you always wanted, or perhaps your boss is sending you back to school to prepare you for advancement. However you choose to further your education, and for whatever reason, the prospect of going back to school after ten or twenty or even thirty years is very exciting.And also a little scary! When you were in college or high school, fads and fashions were much different. Kids dressed differently and spoke differently. When you were in school no one was texting, much less Twittering. The music was different and so were the television shows. You may have the feeling that setting foot on a college campus will be like going to a foreign country, or that there will be culture shock and you’ll feel like an old fossil.You Are Not AloneYes, it’s true that kids today have their own style and attitude. But here’s the inside scoop: the fact is that you will not be the only adult in class. Over the past ten years there has been an explosion of adults returning to college. Adults are enrolled in every conceivable way: as full-time and part-time students, on campus, off-campus, and in growing numbers through online or distance learning. This year more than six million adults will attend college in the United States.Who Are Adult Learners?- The average age of the college student continues to rise. Data from the recent Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) shows that students at U.S. institutions of higher education cover nearly every over-18 age group.- Adult students (also called re-entry students) range in age from 25 to 70 or even higher.- Adult learners are often female, but the numbers of men returning to college are climbing as they seek to enhance their professional skills.- Some adult learners went to work right after they graduated from high school, or they started college and then left school because of financial, family, or other reasons. Others earned a certificate or undergraduate degree and now want to earn a higher degree such as a master’s degree or doctorate.- Department of Education figures indicate that 13 percent of students who are now enrolled in college are single parents, an increase from 7.6 percent in 1993.- An increasing number of adult students are retirees, and many have spent time raising a family, in the workforce, or in the military, and want to go back to fulfill lifelong dreams or advance their career potential.Challenges and RewardsThe reasons for the growing numbers of adult learners or re-entries are numerous. These include a desire to pursue a new career path; changing demands in the workforce; employer requirements to secure licensure or certification; the need to update existing job skills or secure new ones; or simply a desire to engage in learning.For many adult learners, financial aid and flexible schedules are major considerations. Fortunately, the U.S. government provides a wide range of financial aid programs to qualified moms and dads who want to return to school. With family and career responsibilities to juggle, adults need weekend and evening classes and the option to learn online.Looking for a college or career school?How do you choose a college or program? The best way to research your options is to go online to a free college directory website like the one below. You can enter the search terms that are appropriate for you (such as “medical assisting, Miami, Florida,” or “online business degrees”). You’ll be presented with free information about the programs that meet your criteria. Compare features such as financial aid, career services, and flexible schedules. Narrow down your choices and make your application. In less time than you think you could be training for a rewarding new career, earning your degree, or just taking that class in French cooking that you always dreamed about.