Published on 2012/12/21

Universities and Colleges Must Adapt to Adult Enrollment Increase

The number of non-traditional students enrolled in colleges and universities is increasing across the United States, according to new data from the National Center for Education Statistics. The data also projects that between 2010 and 2020, the number of adult enrollments will increase by 20 percent.

It is expected that many higher education institutions will need to take steps to ensure they are prepared to handle this increase in the number of adult learners enrolling in their programs. Among the most important of these steps is developing a thorough understanding of the challenges that are faced by non-traditional students.

Colette Atkins, the assistant dean of accelerated programs at Mount Mercy University, said higher education institutions must make concessions to accommodate the specific needs of adult learners.

“It’s not fair to expect an adult student who works to come to class during the day,” she told the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Further, she said the current requirements of some degree programs means adults have to take an unreasonable amount of time to complete their education.  In other cases, adult learners could be faced with a lack of academic skills needed to succeed in furthering their education if they have been out of school for a length of time.

This, according to Atkins, indicates the need to make changes to programs that will better suit the needs of these students. To remain competitive and to best serve the growing population of adult learners, it is expected that higher education institutions will need to put processes in place to meet the varying needs of these students.

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