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National Adult Learner Coalition Representatives, Adult Learner Experts Lead Capitol Hill Panel

As previously reported, CAEL has joined Presidents’ Forum, the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), and University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) to form the National Adult Learner Coalition. The Coalition’s goals are to modernize federal education and workforce policy to reflect the reality that the adult learner is the new normal; educate stakeholders on the value and needs of adult learners and innovative ways to serve them; and mobilize colleges and universities, employers, government, and other key constituencies to advance the adult learner.

Last week, coalition representatives were joined by panelists representing adult learners, higher education policy and workforce development to discuss how support of the country’s adult learners can have a far-reaching impact on our country. Speaking on the panel in our nation’s capital, panelists explained the importance of the adult learner and outlined how important changes in federal policy can help today's students (who, we know, are on average older than many might recognize) and help build a stronger workforce for tomorrow.

Panelists included Anthony P. Carnevale, Research Professor and Director at the McCourt School of Public Policy at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; John C. Cavanaugh, President and CEO at the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area; and Monique Wardrick, an adult learner, veteran, recent graduate and current student at the University of Maryland University College.

Moderated by CAEL’s Associate Vice President of Research and Policy Development, Becky Klein-Collins and UPCEA CEO Bob Hansen, the panel provided deep insight in where the education system is in terms of supporting the growing population of nontraditional learners, and where it needs to go from here.

The panel’s discussion about the evolution of learning and training options for adults, said Klein-Collins, illustrated “How complex our current system is and, to some extent, not understandable to the average adult who may want to improve their current situation, may want follow a different career pathway that’s going to lead them to greater employability, long-term employability and success in this labor market.”

Underscoring the importance of building an education system that “works for [adult learners],” Klein-Collins stressed the need to both better understand the realities facing the typical adult learner and to meet them through the introduction of new education options.

“It’s still relatively difficult for adults to pursue post-secondary degrees, on average, because we’re talking about people who, by and large, are already employed; they have families, children they’re caring for, elderly relatives and sometimes both. These are the people we want to see succeed in post-secondary education, but we have to be realistic about what they can be expected to do.” The day-to-day responsibilities of the adult mean that they need different kinds of learning options that will fit their busy lives and allow them to keep supporting their families as they go to school. While many of these options currently exist, our federal policies currently do not support them adequately. The message of the Coalition at this event was that these policies need to be reimagined so that learning and credentials are within reach of more adults.

To video a video recording of the full panel, click here.

To review the recent white paper by the National Adult Learner Coalition, “Strengthening America’s Economy By Expanding Educational Opportunities for Working Adults,” click here.

Looking to engage with the National Adult Learner Coalition? The Coalition will be represented at the following upcoming events:



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