Even though an increasing number of jobs now require some sort of postsecondary credentials, half of American adults have never attended college. To increase their chances at their current employment, for their chances for new employment, and most of all for their fair opportunity in the job market, adults are entering into higher education in higher and higher numbers.
Statistics prove the adult student market is growing in a way many colleges may be unaware of. Similarly, many colleges may not fully understand the adult market and how to reach them. Over the next few years the adult market will have a greater influence in higher education. Predictions based on the statistics, research, and market needs show several trends which include: more certificate programs rather than degrees, accelerated or fast-tracked programs, more online instruction, competition for the adult market will increase, and as age will no longer predict the learning behavior, former students will now be viewed as future students.
Certificate programs are predicted to increase from their current 30% of the adult enrollment. The smaller portions of a degree or the option to choose only what they need are appealing to the adult market. Experience and research is showing that adults are only choosing what they need to fulfill their career objectives. These needs are currently being filled at the community college level. More community colleges offer this type of curriculum at a more cost efficient tuition rate that also appeals to the adult student.
Fast-track and accelerated programs have caught the eye of the adult market as well. These programs are described as a form of financial aid as the programs will help adults achieve their goals quickly, which in turn can lead to more income. Most adult students want the bottom line. How long will it take? Exactly how much will I be in debt? Questions and concerns like this should be welcomed and addressed by all higher education institutions. Despite the fast-track courses, many colleges offer credits for work experience in combination with national testing programs. Combining the programs can allow some adults complete their degree within 18-20 months.
Age is losing its presence among the college curriculum. The curriculum is no longer only geared towards the traditional young students. The curriculum is now based more on process and information geared towards the career or life in general for any age group.
Is it time to speak of former students as future students? Describing the adult learner returning to college, one must recognize the correlation and commonality of the 21 year old student working full-time and the 50 year old student changing careers. Another prediction is that this trend will increase gradually each year as the competition for the adult market continues.
With the increasing adult market changing the higher education community, curriculums need to accommodate to their needs. Colleges that are not adapting may be missing out on a portion of several billions of revenue. The increase of the adult market is based on slight yearly increments, but the true statistics are ahead of us.