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Register now for the 2023 CAEL Conference in Baltimore, MD!


The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) was founded to help organizations succeed by providing expertise, resources, and solutions that effectively support adult learners as they navigate on- and off-ramps between education and employment. We partner with entities across the adult learner ecosystem to help create actionable career pathways along the journey of lifelong learning and meaningful work.

Championing adult learner success for more than 40 years.

Our Vision

Every adult can navigate lifelong learning and career pathways that fuel economic mobility and community prosperity.

Our Mission

CAEL engages with educators, employers, and community leaders to align learning and work so that adults achieve continuous, long-term career success.

Our History

CAEL was founded in 1974 on the revolutionary principle that adult learners should be met where they are and that their experience in getting there can create college-level learning. It may be hard to imagine today, but at the time, adult learners were on the sidelines of postsecondary education. Largely overlooked within the “first time, full time” mindset that prevailed then, they were expected to fit their schedules around what higher ed had to offer, not the other way around.

As CAEL led a paradigm shift toward recognizing diverse learning – and learners – it helped postsecondary institutions successfully respond to these “nontraditional” students’ disruptive interest in the return on investment of a college education. In the process, CAEL became a catalyst for increasing the quality of postsecondary education for all students.

To complement its pioneering work to support adult learners and learning recognition, in the 1990s CAEL expanded its mission to include workforce development and the mutually beneficial links between curricula and careers that are so vital to the success of learners and the communities they live and work in. Through collaboration with educators, employers, and community leaders, CAEL’s nonprofit mission has become a national movement to ensure that every adult can navigate lifelong learning and career pathways that fuel social mobility and equitable prosperity.

Today, CAEL supports adult learner success at more than 300 postsecondary institutions, employers, and government agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Equity at CAEL

CAEL exists to create achievable education-to-work pathways for all adult learners. Over more than four decades of championing adult learners, we have developed a keen appreciation of what separates active advocacy from passive tolerance. And our partners in workforce, economic development, postsecondary, and business have helped perceptions of adult learners progress from “nontraditional” to “new traditional.”

We realize our work will never be complete while racism and the inequities it perpetuates exist. And this means that we cannot overlook opportunities to more tangibly and emphatically connect our mission and work to the broader one of eradicating systemic racism. CAEL advocates for equitable treatment and support of both adult learners and other underserved populations.

Having honest conversations about racism in the world today requires courage, respect, and compassion. Though these discussions are not always easy, CAEL pledges to purposefully confront challenges related to race, color, ethnicity, and their impact on all adult learners.

As an organization, we:

  • Are committed to being an inclusive organization
  • Prioritize equity, diversity, and inclusion in our recruitment, hiring, and retention efforts
  • Look for opportunities to communicate the link between our mission and eliminating systemic inequity that affects adult learners
  • Acknowledge and appreciate daily the challenges facing all those from diverse backgrounds
  • Stand in solidarity with disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in support of justice for these communities
  • Do not accept or condone racism in any form
  • Commit individual and corporate resources to the pursuit of justice
  • Require employee training on topics such as racial equality and unconscious bias toward maintaining an inclusive culture
  • Provide a library of media and organizational resources to our staff to increase understanding of racial inequality
  • Incorporate business-agreement language that reinforces our anti-racism stance

Because adult learners are the lifeblood of our economy, we sincerely believe that to uplift adult learners is to uplift our community. By uniting in the commitment to empower diverse adult learners of all backgrounds, we are working toward a better future for all of us. We invite you to join us. Let’s “do more.”


Want to learn more? Let's talk.

If your institution or organization is seeking guidance, solutions, or support from CAEL, or if you have an idea for a future collaboration initiative with us, please reach out. We'd love to connect.

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