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CAEL Pathways Blog

5 Valuable Traits of Older Students

5_Valuable_Traits_of_Older_Students.jpgOlder students offer institutions stability, commitment and experience that can foster an enriching learning environment.

For these reasons many academic leaders are focusing on ways to court and retain mature students. Despite the hype about today's millennial prodigies, many learning institutions have prioritized academic programs appealing to the needs of older learners. Flexible course schedules, experience-based learning and competency-based credits are all methods that today's colleges and universities use.

Besides the market segment represented, schools are discovering that the addition of older students is an effective way to create a well-rounded student body that reflects a variety of talents. Some of the qualities that make older learners essential members of any educational body are:

1. Dedication
Older students and veterans are ideal learners because they understand the value of an education. And they are more likely than younger learners to continue with a program once they've already started it. Learning institutions can count on the fact that older students usually don't sign up for classes just to dabble in interesting topics. Older learners sign up because they are in for the long haul, for a degree or credential. In turn, committed students look for institutions that can provide a clear path to a degree or set of credentials. It is essential that institutions offer streamlined programs with as little fluff as possible if they wish to catch dedicated older learners.

2. Earning Potential
Most people who pursue additional degrees after a few years in the workforce are earning substantially more than first-time students. This earning potential makes them an important group for institutions of higher learning.

3. Valuable Experience
Older students and veterans are valuable to institutions because they are able to bring real-world experience into the classroom, which benefits younger students. Leaders in education must respond to the fact that many older students are attracted to programs where they can earn college credit for learning acquired from other sources like work experience, military training and more.

4. Stability
While younger students look for cultural experiences and campus activities, many older students pick colleges and universities based on geography. Older students look for institutions near their homes or places of employment. Integrating education with real life is important to them. Being anchored to a community provides mature students with a sense of stability that makes them ideal contributors to a learning institution.

A big issue for schools is retention. The benefit of an older body of students is that a student with a job, mortgage and/or family obligations is unlikely to transfer schools on a whim.

5. Loyalty
Many older students don't stop once they've earned a degree. Institutions that create life-friendly, streamlined degree paths can turn an older student into a lifelong learner. A positive experience on one degree path often inspires a student to keep working toward additional degrees.

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