Meeting the Special Needs of Adult Students

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

Adult learners, long the stepchildren of colleges and
universities, have nearly become the norm, and they
spend billions of dollars each year on education. Have
colleges and universities alienated this rich market pool?


3
Recruiting and Retaining Adult
Students

Janice Hadfield

According to the 1996 U.S. Census Bureau's statement of adult education statistics, about 159 million people in the United States are twenty-five years of age or older. Of that number, 117 million have no educational degree beyond high school, and another 10 million have not completed formal education beyond an associate's degree. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that more than nine million adult learners are enrolled in some form of adult education through postsecondary institutions (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). If the projections for increases in the number of adult learners are reasonably accurate, nontraditional students will soon constitute more than 60 percent of higher education's potential customer base (including both degree and nondegree programs).

In response to the lethargic attitude of higher education to this rapidly growing population of education consumers, business and industry have turned to their own resources to develop better-educated, more highly skilled employees. Corporate universities have appeared and are growing larger and stronger every day. They are a looming shadow in the business of education as they build a reputation for timely and meaningful instruction. At the same time, college professors are leaving academia and moving into the business of training and consulting. They continue to teach working adults, but they do so at a place and in a way that better demonstrates an appreciation for the consumer.

As our budgets constrict, competition increases, and the cost of delivering education skyrockets, to assert that recapturing the leadership position in the adult education market would be of great benefit to colleges and universities is an understatement. To reap that benefit, higher education

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