Published on 2013/07/26

Three Most Significant Challenges Facing Adult Students

Three Most Significant Challenges Facing Adult Students
While adult students must overcome a vast array of hurdles in pursuing higher education, three of the most significant are cost, access and balancing their many commitments.

Choosing to return to school can be a life-changing decision, whether it’s been one year since you graduated or a decade since you sat in a classroom.

There are significant challenges posed to adults who decide to pursue education. The good news is these challenges are being recognized by many educational institutions, and non-traditional educational opportunities are becoming widely available. School and institutions are realizing the increasing importance of making learning accessible to everyone and are, consequently, offering more flexible options for students. Many institutions offer evening and weekend classes, as well as online or distance education options. Bursaries and grants can assist with the costs of tuition and books. As more adults return to school, more services and resources become available to assist with this challenging but worthwhile endeavor.

Ultimately, adult learners face a very unique set of challenges when deciding to enter or re-enter the educational sphere. Three of the biggest challenges facing adult learners are balancing school and life, accessibility and costs:

1. School and Life Responsibilities – The Balancing Act

As any postsecondary student can attest, school is a huge time commitment. There is time spent in class, time spent preparing for class and then the time needed for essays, assignments and other homework. Above and beyond school commitments, adults who are returning to school face additional demands on their time.

Many adult learners are pursuing their education while still working full time. Many also have families and family obligations. This means  less time available for school-related activities. These additional responsibilities can lead to stress and frustration for adult learners.

2. Accessibility

A second challenge facing adult students is accessibility to classes. Sometimes getting to class is the biggest challenge! As previously mentioned, many adult learners have extensive time commitments. Whether it’s a full-time job or a growing family, other responsibilities make it difficult to attend classes during regular school hours. This can lead to difficulty succeeding at school, or even reluctance to return to school at all.

3. Cost

The cost of education can be challenging for anyone. Tuition costs, books, supplies — it all adds up. Throw daycare costs or mortgage payments into the mix and the cost of pursuing an education as an adult learner can become prohibitive.

Adult learners often do not qualify for student loans, which makes paying for an education difficult. On top of the costs of education itself, there is the potential lost income from unemployment, as many adults return to school following a job loss.

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Readers Comments

Heather Willis 2013/07/26 at 10:28 am

I remember a time when institutions saw their role as strictly providing education for non-traditional students. It’s encouraging institutions are now starting to have a conversation about what other supports they can offer these students that are not strictly academic (e.g. child care, counseling, etc.) It’s no longer, “Oh, it’s their prerogative to make it work,” but, “How can we make it easier for you?” A positive culture shift, indeed.

Sanjeev Kumar 2014/01/29 at 6:29 am

I liked the notion on time commitment

Anny 2014/02/06 at 1:07 am

Relevant resources used in education consist of the printed and the paperless. Those printed resources are oft-found in the library, yet the number of users (including younger students) could render these resources inaccessible to the adult learning population.

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