Fueled by a desire for more opportunities and greater earning potential, many adult Americans are furthering their education through a return to college
Where once college campuses were dominated by students barely out of adolescence, today’s student landscape is looking a bit different. Adult learners (those older than 25) are returning to college in droves, in pursuit of both bachelor’s degrees and postgraduate education.
This trend toward getting more education at a nontraditional time of life is one that keeps getting bigger, and its growth is not expected to taper any time soon. Americans from all walks of life are finding it necessary to return to school for many reasons, and many more have the desire to do so.
Reasons for Returning to School
At a time when higher education costs have risen sharply, the demand for college degrees has grown. The reason for this demand is the belief held by many Americans that the benefits of getting more education vastly outweigh both the money and the time spent in pursuing it. They see it as an investment in their future.
For these reasons, many adult learners are choosing to get more advanced degrees. Whether because of a job loss, a desire to change careers, or a perceived opportunity for advancement, Americans over the age of 25 are one of the fastest-growing demographics on college campuses. In addition to the desire to get ahead in the work world, many adults wish to go back to school in order to learn more about personal interests and to gain a sense of accomplishment from the degree.
Barriers to Higher Education
Despite the record-high numbers of adults returning to college, some adults with a desire to go back to school cannot do so. Common obstacles that many older Americans face are money and time.
As mentioned, college costs have skyrocketed in the past two decades. Many adults are hesitant about taking on large student loan debts, and this affects their choice of schools and degrees. The most popular degrees are those that promise large returns on investment, like a healthcare management degree or a program in information systems. Even so, many people worry about the state of the job market when they graduate, and so are leery of making big financial commitments without a guarantee of more money.
Another major factor that’s keeping many adults from returning is time. Many have job or family commitments that they cannot give up easily. Providing for themselves and their families through school is a worry that many have.
Solutions for Adult Learners
Possible solutions for adults returning to school are online degree options and other nontraditional forms of education, such as night classes or for-profit universities. These options are often less expensive than the traditional college experience and offer more flexibility in scheduling and creating personalized curricula.
Adults who do invest the time and money to return to college generally do well in their programs. As more adults take advantage of both traditional and new forms of college, the educational landscape is likely to remain altered for the near future.