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The Adult Learner: A Critical Ally for State and Economic Development

When people think of a college student, many imagine a young, full-time student, living on a university campus. However, these students only represent 15 percent of enrolled students.*

Adults over the age of 24 are the fastest growing population within American higher education. Despite these rising numbers, many adult learners lack the support they need and are treated like a minor sub-population rather than the new reality of higher education.

In The Adult Learner: A Critical Ally for State Economic Development — featured in The Council of State Governments 2016 edition of The Book of the States — CAEL’s senior consultant, Wilson Finch outlines what states and higher education institutions can do to adequately meet and address the unique needs, concerns and expectations of these returning learners.

What enrollment, persistence and degree attainment strategies do you have in place to assist the 85 percent of your students who don't fit the traditional mold? 

Click here to download the article.

*Hess, Frederick. “Old School: College’s Most Important Trend Is the Rise of the Adult Student.” The Atlantic. Wyatt, Linda G. “Nontraditional Student Engagement: Increasing Adult Student
Success and Retention.” Journal of Continuing Higher Education 59, no. 1 (2011): 10–20.


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