Annual Eduventures® Adult Prospect Research Report™ Examines the Challenges Colleges Face When Attracting, Serving, and Supporting Working Adults

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New Research Reveals the Changing Dynamics of Postsecondary Capital on Adult Learner Decision-Making.

The concept of postsecondary capital can serve as a lens to further explore the relationship between these prior experiences and the why and how of whether adults will continue or complete their education.

NRCCUA®, an educational data science and research organization that is a wholly owned subsidiary of ACT®, announced today the publication of the Eduventures 2020 Adult Prospect Research Report. This report draws upon data collected by the Eduventures 2019 Adult Prospect Survey™—the latest study in a 15-year body of adult learner research—that identifies new patterns about how prospective adult learners make decisions about their educational futures.

This new study suggests that the attainment of postsecondary credentials is far less of an accelerator of social and economic mobility than previously assumed. Postsecondary education has long been thought of as an engine of career advancement and upward social mobility. Much of this narrative is true: increased earnings and expanded job opportunities are often the result of postsecondary education. This study, however, reveals that the challenge may be about a student’s access to postsecondary capital: an accumulation of economic capacity, personal confidence, and academic competence.

The Implications of Postsecondary Capital

According to the study, decisions made by prospective adult learners are profoundly shaped by both prior educational experiences and current economic circumstances. Adult prospects with greater access to postsecondary capital tend to seek more advanced credentials catalyzing greater career advancement, while prospects with limited credential attainment and less prior educational success are more restrained in their pursuits of advanced degrees.

Schools and other providers should recognize the multiple factors at work when an adult decides to return to school or why they chose to not return. Students who lack sufficient access to postsecondary capital may retreat from new credential attainment altogether, or gravitate toward shorter, transactional, and skills-based programs. Those with postsecondary capital have more opportunities to “spend” it on acquiring more advanced credentials.

Key Research Findings:

1. Divergent Levels of Postsecondary Demand: 83% of prospective adult learners are best described as either “Hesitant” or “Skeptical” about the value of a postsecondary credential, as well as the overall ability to obtain one.

2. Implications for Schools: Data from this study strongly suggests that adults have a more expansive view of postsecondary education than most providers assume. The "convenience and career advertisement" messages dominating the marketplace may be accurate, but lack the nuance required to motivate these prospective students to enroll.

“Schools seeking to enroll and support adult learners need to meet these prospects where they are, and this can be facilitated by a more precise understanding of their prior educational experiences and credential attainments,” commented Howard Lurie, Eduventures principal analyst and author of this report. “The concept of postsecondary capital can serve as a lens to further explore the relationship between these prior experiences and the why and how of whether adults will continue or complete their education.”

About NRCCUA
The National Research Center for College and University Admissions™ (NRCCUA), a wholly owned subsidiary of ACT, is an educational data science and research organization serving over 2,000 member institutions comprised of public and private colleges and universities across the nation. Since 1972, NRCCUA has been a leading provider of data, technology, and programs serving students, high school educators, colleges and universities from its offices in Lee’s Summit, MO, Boston, MA, New York, NY, and Austin, TX. These solutions represent the link between students making important life decisions and those providing the resources and information they need to succeed in their post-secondary educations and careers. With the launch of Encoura™ Data Lab, the company now combines data science, advanced analytics, Eduventures research, predictive modeling and omnichannel enrollment services in one platform to enable institutions to make real-time strategic and operational decisions to meet their unique enrollment goals and create the highest probability of student success. For more information, visit https://encoura.org.

Members of the media who would like to speak to the author of this report or obtain a copy of the report can contact Ellen Slaby at eslaby@eduventures.com.

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Todd Boullion
NRCCUA
512-750-2634
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Ellen Slaby
NRCCUA
617-510-3884
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@EncouraEdu
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