Meeting the Special Needs of Adult Students

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

Who are adult learners in higher education, and how do
they differ from younger college students? In this chapter,
the author presents an overview of adult student
enrollment patterns, their participation motivators, and
their lifestyle differences from younger college students.


1
Setting the Stage: Adults in Higher
Education

Carol E. Kasworm

Who is an adult learner in higher education? Most would answer that all college students are adults, believing that the age of eighteen and above indicates adulthood. However, within higher education, historical patterns of adult student participation have been distinctive; beliefs about adult learner needs for specialized policies, services, and learning delivery structures have been unique; and relationships between the traditional youth environments and the needed access, flexibility, and support for adult learners have been problematic. In this chapter, I focus on the concept of the adult student as one who represents the status of age (typically defined as twenty-five years of age and older); the status of maturity and developmental complexity acquired through life responsibilities, perspectives, and financial independence; and the status of responsible and often-competing sets of adult roles reflecting work, family, community, and college student commitments. This chapter provides readers with national demographics, key frameworks for understanding participation motivators, and key descriptive differences between younger and older undergraduate students. As noted by the chapter title, this discussion provides an introductory context for understanding and serving adult student needs.


Place of Adult Students in Higher Education

Adult students in higher education represent a growing population in the shifting terrain of higher education. In the past thirty years, adult students have increased dramatically in both absolute number and in the percentage of the student population in relation to younger students. From 1971 to

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