There has been a steady increase in the number of adult students (“non-traditional students”) enrolling in college programs across the country over the past decade. It all started with the major economic downturn in 2008, which was accompanied by widespread job losses and the overall employment rate soaring.
At that time, many people realized that they needed further education to improve their chances of landing employment. Even though the economy has picked up since then, adult enrollment has continued to grow year over year since 2014.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing so-called nontraditional students is one that plagues most college students but affects this group more acutely: the rising cost of college. State disinvestment in higher education has pushed up tuition prices at public schools, where most of these students’ study.
And for many of these students, navigating the financial aid system can be daunting without the help of guidance counselors and other resources often available to students just graduating from high school, said Hadass Sheffer, president of the Graduate! Network, an organization that works to increase the number of adults attending college.
Colleges are also working to adjust to this group of students by, for example offering classes in blocks that fit better with a work schedule or keeping their financial aid offices open into the evenings or on weekends to ensure that they can be accommodative for everyone.
Colleges are also starting to use technology to make the entire college process much more intuitive and cost effective. DegreeSight is one company making progress to help partner universities to make parts of the path to graduation is solved with a modern solution.