Rethinking the Traditional College Student Stereotype: a Snapshot of the Adult Learner

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They are older and wiser and they make up one of the fastest growing crowds on college campuses today. Nearly 40% of all students enrolled in degree-granting institutions are 25 years old or older. In fact, today only a little more than 16% of the higher education population in the United States is traditional 18 to 22 year olds.

They are older and wiser and they make up one of the fastest growing crowds on college campuses today. Nearly 40% of all students enrolled in degree-granting institutions are 25 years old or older. In fact, today only a little more than 16% of the higher education population in the United States is traditional 18 to 22 year olds. (For this research, a traditional student is defined as an undergraduate, living on campus and supported by his or her parents' income.) Here is a snapshot of this burgeoning knowledge-seeking populous from the research of Eduventures, the leading research and consulting firm for the education industry.

Adult learners:

-92 Million adults (46%) of U.S. adult population participated in some form of adult education in 2001, according to the most recent figures -from the National Center for Education Statistics

Almost 8 million adults were enrolled part-time in college or -university degree or certificate programs.

Almost 60 million adults were engaged in work-related courses.

Demographics:

40 years old - Average age.

$76,800 - Average annual household income.

73% of adult learners are employed full time.

56% are married.

34% have dependent children at home.

63% are women.

Highest Level Of Educational Attainment:

70% have bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 25% of the U.S. adult population.

27% have master's, professional, or doctoral degree, compared to 7% of the U.S. adult population.

Current occupations (ranked by frequency):

1. Management.

2. Education, Training and Library - K-12 Education.

3. Business and Financial Operations.

4. Computer and Mathematical.

5. Office and Administrative Support.

How Adult Learners Identify Themselves:

71% family oriented.

66% socially responsible.

58% environmentally conscious.

53% intellectual.

37% competitive.

Enrollment:

37% of adult learners are enrolled in or considering individual courses.

34% of adult learners pursue programs at the graduate level.

Top Motivations For Enrolling:

65% Personal interest/enrichment.

65% Improving performance/pay.

38% Licensing, credential or certification required.

36% Changing careers.

Top Programs In Which Adult Learners Are Enrolled Or Interested:

16% Business Administration and Management.

6% Health Professions and Related Sciences.

6% Computer and Information Sciences.

6% Education - Teacher Education.

5% Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities.

Mode Of Learning:

50% are enrolled in or are considering enrolling in a traditional classroom format.

42% are enrolled in or considering online and hybrid (combination of online and traditional)programs.

Scheduling:

About 66% of adult learners prefer classes meeting Tuesday-Thursday.

Classes meeting in the early evening (6-8 p.m.) is the most popular preferred meeting time.

Institution Selection Process:

2-3 institutions considered on average.

Adult learners rated course/program quality, and faculty teaching abilities as "very important".

Preferences By Motivation:

Career Advancers - Place greater importance on a convenient location near work, and the availability of online courses.

Career Changers - Place greater importance on specialized/professional accreditation, career services, and affiliation with a professional organization.

Enrichment Seekers - Place greater importance on class size.

Regulatory Compliers - Place considerably lower importance on nearly all criteria, suggesting that they are "easier to please."

Preferences By Cost:

68% "try to balance price with quality".

28% are willing to "pay a higher price for higher quality".

Information Sources

Adult learners rate course catalogs and school web sites as the most important information sources.

Financing An Education

50% use or expect to use cash savings.

48% use or expect to use employer tuition assistance/reimbursement.

28% use or expect to use federal student loans.

More than 22% of prospective adult learners who choose not to enroll cite cost as an obstacle.

Financing By Motivation

Enrichment seekers and career changers are most likely to use cash savings (60% and 57%, respectively).

Degree completers are most likely to use federal student loans (41%).

62% of career advancers use tuition assistance.

34% of career changers use tuition assistance.

Employer Tuition Assistance

40% receive or expect to receive tuition assistance from their employer 80%-90% of U.S. employers offer tuition assistance.

Tuition assistance most prevalent in the utilities and manufacturing sectors, where more than 77% of adult learners are receiving employer assistance.

For more information on this data from the Eduventures Learning Collaborative for Higher Education surveys or to speak with an analyst at Eduventures, please contact Steven Shapiro at 303.886.6342.

About Eduventures

For more than a decade, Eduventures has been the most trusted name in the education market for research, consulting services, and peer networking. Its clients include senior administrators and executives from leading educational institutions and companies serving the K-12, higher education, and corporate learning markets, as well as decision-makers in government agencies and the investment community. For more information, visit http://www.eduventures.com.

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