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Flexible Degrees Target Adult Learners

American higher education institutions are implementing experimental strategies to make higher education more affordable and accessible in an effort to help more adult students earn degrees.

According to a report by the National Clearinghouse Research Center, American college enrollments – especially for adult learners – have dropped over the past year. Adult student enrollments at for-profit institutions have fallen 8.7 percent while their presence at community colleges dropped 3.6 percent.

To explain this spring’s decline in enrollments, Doug Shapiro, executive director of the nonprofit National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, said that students who would otherwise be enrolling in higher education today are finding work in the recovering labor market.

“It’s reflective of good news for the economy,” he told the Asbury Park Press.

One example of various initiatives aimed at appealing to the adult student market is the new flexible degree program to be launched in the fall by the University of Wisconsin (UW) System. The program has incorporated an “all you can learn” model that charges a relatively low rate in exchange for three months of unlimited access to courses and campus resources.

The UW System isn’t the only major higher education provider looking to add flexible degree options to their program offerings. While UW is in the process of getting its new flexible degree offerings approved by the Higher Learning Commission, Southern New Hampshire University’s similar program, College for America, was recently approved and rolled out. Additionally, the University of Arizona is expected to apply for accreditors’ approval of degree offerings for a similar program of their own.