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Looking at Financial Aid Reform? Keep Adult Learners in the Conversation

Policymakers throughout the country are beating the drum about the need for policy that can respond to the increasingly untenable financial burden students face when pursuing an increasingly essential postsecondary education. While this conversation is important, it’s often one that leaves out a quickly growing population of learners: the adult learner. As the Education Commission of the States (ECS) notes, a greater emphasis must be placed on financial aid that meets adult students’ needs.

The ECS blog points out that today’s students are often older and, consequently, must frequently balance family and work in addition to academic pursuits. As a result, it’s not a surprise that the financial aid opportunities—and the desired policies to revise those opportunities—are all too often focused squarely on what has until recently been recognized as the traditional learner. Twenty-nine of the largest state aid programs (PDF), for example, fund only full-time students, a designation impossible to reach for most working adult learners.

While some institutions are making headway to ease the financial burden for adult students and employeers are increasingly likely to offer tuition assistance for employees, more work must still be done. As other conversations around higher education continue to consider the growing population of students 25 or older (such as Washington Monthly’s recent rankings of best colleges for adult learners), now is the time to include the adult learner in the broader conversation about financial aid as well.  

To read the full blog by ECS, click here

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