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Four Reasons Why the Adult Learner Should be in the Running for Time’s 2016 Person of the Year

Every year since 1927, Time has identified a person (in some cases, persons) whose impact on the world made them the year’s top newsmaker. As a result, Time’s Persons of the Year are those who not only made an impact on the world in the year gone by, but also promised to influence the world in the years to come. By that metric, here are four reasons why the adult learner, a population that has had—and will continue to have—a significant impact on our society at large, should be a serious contender for this year’s honor.

  1. After a divisive presidential election that drew considerable attention to the undereducated and underemployed population of the U.S., it’s clear that training and education can solve many of the issues that have come to the fore. With talk of significant increases in spending to upgrade our country’s infrastructure, the focus on educating and upksilling our workforce will continue to draw attention on the adult learner.
  2. If you’ve seen advertisements for a college or university, chances are the photos they’ve used don’t accurately reflect the real face of today’s average student. But change on that front is coming, show with Washington Monthly’s first-ever ranking of colleges from an adult student’s perspective. With more than one-third of college students now over the age of 25, it’s likely that such recognition will become even more common in years to come.
  3. The shuttering of ITT Technical institute made national headlines as tens of thousands of adult students were impacted. Stories of students’ plight continue to be shared in the media months after the closing, with word of local institutions accepting displaced ITT students still seen on a daily basis. Clear in this coverage is the role an education plays in adult students’ daily lives and the lengths they’ll go to realize their educational goals.
  4. If there was any lingering notion that a college education is only useful for white collar jobs, it was finally put to bed this year as businesses representing all industries overwhelmingly began to embrace initiatives to encourage employees to increase their education. Around the country, organizations large and small fostered relationships with institutions to promote employee learning opportunities. Encouraging the adoption of tuition assistance benefits to help students reach this goal, advocates for higher education like Lumina Foundation have released research showing measurable returns on investment for their implementation.


While it may seem as though we’re overstating the significance of the adult learner, it’s hard to consider a facet of our society in which the group fails to have an appreciable impact. So many issues facing our world today can be remedied, at least in part, by increasing access to education. 

And if it seems like a stretch to honor adult learners with Time’s distinction, remember: You were already the 2006 Person of the Year.  


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