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Adult Learners Driving Change in Higher Education

A report issued by the American Council on Education (ACE) states that non-traditional learners will be the largest driver of change in higher education, but more must be done to ensure they succeed.

The ACE report states that the non-traditional student market is rapidly growing in the U.S., but the graduation rates of this group are not keeping up The number of American adults who hold a higher education credential only increased by 4 percent between 2001 and 2011, despite this student segment growing by 42 over the last decade, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. It appears rigid class scheduling and academic inexperience are the greatest obstacles to obtaining higher education credentials for these individuals.

With work and family obligations, non-traditional students are typically aged 25-64 and often do not hold higher education credentials, explained  Louis Soares, special policy adviser to ACE’s president, in the report.

“The issue of increasing attainment rates among all Americans, including adult learners, is of great importance to the higher education community and the nation as a whole,” Molly Corbett Broad, ACE’s president, said in a written statement.

The ACE report also urges university and college leaders to look ahead and embrace the needs of non-traditional students with innovations that provide alternative ways to obtain an education and credentials.