Academic journal article Community College Review

Self-Identity Modification and Intent to Return: Baby Boomers Reinvent Themselves Using the Community College

Academic journal article Community College Review

Self-Identity Modification and Intent to Return: Baby Boomers Reinvent Themselves Using the Community College

Article excerpt

This study examines the value importance to baby boomers of the community college as a means to reinvent or modify self-view and how value importance influences intent to return to the college for further educational services. Understanding the reinvention-self-identity modification phenomenon can help institutions create more satisfying environments for baby boomer consumers.

Keywords: baby boomer; adult learner; lifelong learning; intent to return; self-identity


In the 21st century, baby boomers once again take center stage as an .important demographic just as they did as young adults in the 1960s and 1970s. As 18- to 25-year-olds, the enormous baby boomer cohort was directly related to the increase in community colleges' growth in the 1960s and 1970s. Today the same cohort, now older adults, has returned to the community colleges as older adults for additional learning opportunities.

The purpose of this article is to examine the value importance of the community college to baby boomers as a means to reinvent or modify personal self-view. Much is known about the tangible economic value of attaining community college degrees and certifications. However, less is known about the underlying intangible value or higher end consumer goals such as a positive modified self-identity. Understanding the reinvention--self-identity modification phenomenon that emerged from this research can help community colleges create better environments and more satisfying experiences for the growing baby boomer population. Satisfying experiences can result in repeated use of the community colleges' educational services and generated revenue for the community college from educational services used by the baby boomers.


Older adults increasingly represent a larger population in postsecondary education, mostly due to the return of the baby boomer generation, who are currently between 40 and 60 years old. Much has been written about generational characteristics that make the older adult baby boomers different from previous generations (Davies & Love, 2002; Dywald & Flowers, 1990; Grabinski, 1998; Popcorn & Marigold, 1997; Roper Starch Worldwide & American Association of Retired Persons, 1998). For example, compared to previous generations, baby boomers are more likely to live longer, to have different ideas about what retirement means, to consider age 85 versus 65 as senior and elderly, and to have a propensity for lifelong learning (Davies & Love, 2002; Dywald & Flowers, 1990; Grabinski, 1998). In addition, as a generation they have been described as idealist, individualist, self-absorbed yet family oriented, self-reliant, and the "me generation" (Popcorn & Marigold, 1997). Baby boomers have also faced a constant learning and relearning process for career moves, for personal growth, or for changing roles in a society that is much different from that of their parents (Dywald & Flowers, 1990; Grabinski, 1998).

The baby boomers accounted for 56% of the adult learners (i.e., those 25 and older) enrolled in community colleges and universities during the past decade, and now they account for almost 20% of all students in American higher education (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 1999; Phillipe & Valiga, 2000). In community colleges alone, students older than 40 represent more than 16% of the current student population (Phillipe & Valiga, 2000). Previously, similar 40- to 60-year-old cohorts, like the baby boomers' parents, accounted for no more than 9.5% of the total student population in higher education (NCES, 1995).

Many of the baby boomers are in community colleges for personal development, for job-related courses and, to a lesser extent, for transfer courses or remediation courses necessary to gain access to 4-year programs (NCES, 2002). As older adults who have more disposable income than previous generations, a longer working career span, a propensity for continuous learning, and extensive social needs, baby boomers are poised to take advantage of the community colleges (Davies & Love, 2002; Popcorn & Marigold, 1997; Swank, Hollenbeck, Keenan, & Fisher, 2000). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.