Meeting the Special Needs of Adult Students

By Deborah Kilgore; Penny J. Rice | Go to book overview

EDITORS' NOTES

Students in higher education often are defined as “adult learners” or “nontraditional students” if they are twenty-five years of age or older and, more important, if they have taken on what we consider adult roles and responsibilities, such as caring for children and other family members, working full-time, or participating heavily in community activities. Adult students typically are not focused on campus life in the same way that younger, “traditional-aged” students are. Therefore, our theories of the importance of the campus experience outside the classroom to student development usually do not hold for adults. Yet, adults can and do learn and develop through their engagement in formal higher education. Adults bring experiences and wisdom into the classroom and receive a learning experience that informs their own professional and personal practices.

In this volume, we examine the ways student services professionals in institutions of higher education can best meet the needs of adult learners. Most of the discussion here is situated in four-year colleges and universities, although we recognize that community colleges play a large role in the higher education of adults. However, we made the decision to focus on four-year and postgraduate institutions because these institutions often are focused on traditional-aged students, despite growing adult enrollments, and are most in need of guidance about how to serve this ever-growing population.

In Chapter One, Carol Kasworm examines educational statistics, demonstrating the significant number of adults in institutions of higher education as well as their diversity in age, race, and sex. She also examines the social and personal reasons that motivate adults to continue their education. Although the interests, motivations, and needs among adults are greatly diverse, there are general ways in which we can understand and assist them in their entry into and progress through formal higher education. Ellen Fairchild in Chapter Tw o takes a deeper look at the multiple roles and responsibilities of adult learners. Family, work, and community commitments all are important aspects of what it means to be an adult. Fairchild describes the effects of these commitments on adults' needs and experiences in higher education.

Most of this volume is organized functionally, with the goal of speaking directly to practitioners engaged with adult learners in various contexts within the institution. In Chapter Three, Janice Hadfield discusses university recruiting and retention efforts that are directed toward adults. Karen Hatfield in Chapter Four gives an overview of the various options for funding higher education, with regard to the particular financial needs and resources of adults. Chapter Five is a case study of the use of information

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