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Data/Resources: Adult Students

The following organizations, resources, and reports offer useful information and sources for reporting on the issues affecting adult students.  

The Council for Adult and Experiential Education (CAEL) works with colleges, employers, and other organizations to develop tools and practices that support adult students. Long known for its advocacy of Prior Learning Assessment, its collaboration with the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education on recent studies found that having PLA credits improved students’ likelihood of graduating by 17 percent. But the studies, known collectively as The PLA Boost, also found evidence of inequitable access to PLA: Black and lower-income adult students in a sample of 230,000, for example, were less likely to have credit from PLA compared to other groups.

The Graduate! Network is the only national nonprofit organization devoted to helping adult students enroll or return to college by promoting proven advising practices, in collaboration with local and state organizations such as civic organizations and employers.

Never Too Late: The Adult Students’ Guide to College, a student-oriented guidebook published in conjunction with The Washington Monthly magazine. The magazine also produces an annual ranking of “American’s Best Colleges for Adult Learners.”

The Adult Student (and The Adult Student Guide) are reports by Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Goldie Blumenstyk that include data, analyses, advice, and case studies on how colleges can better meet the imperative of serving older students. (Journalists can obtain free digital access to these reports by contacting The Chronicle at solutions@chronicle.com.) 

Complete College America, best known for advocating that students take 15 credits a semester to stay on track to graduation, has also developed a series of recommendations on adjustments colleges could make to provide “A Better Deal for Returning Students” as described in the slides of this webinar.  

The nonprofit Ithaka S+R consultancy has been studying how students’ old unpaid debts to colleges keeps millions of them from returning or re-enrolling elsewhere. Its report on “Stranded Credits” details the problem, while a follow-up blog post offers a State-by-State Snapshot of Stranded Credits Data and Policy.

Degrees When Due, a project of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, helps institutions and states develop policies that will encourage adults with “some college” experience to return to complete their degrees.

Great Colleges for the New Majority is a network of institutions and baccalaureate
programs dedicated to transformative and engaged learning for adult, nontraditional students. 

This report on “Strategies for Improving Postsecondary Credential Attainment Among Black, Hispanic, and Native American Adults,” from the Community College Research Center, includes an overview of educational attainment disparities of adults by race and ethnicity. As the report notes, nearly 60% of Asians and 42% of Whites have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, as compared to 27% of Blacks and 19% of Hispanics and Native Americans.

This analysis from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report highlights income and unemployment differences among adults with college degrees and those without, including that in 2019 adults age 25 and over with a high school diploma or equivalent had median annual earnings of $38,792, compared to $43,316 for individuals with some college and $64,896 for workers with a bachelor’s degree.   

The Talent Hub Network is a collection of 26 communities, supported by grants from the Lumina and Kresge Foundations, where civic, education, and business groups collaborate to raise educational attainment rates through an array of strategies, including a concerted focus on adults and other non-traditional students.  

Higher Learning Advocates is a bipartisan nonprofit advocacy organization that works to shift federal policy so that it will be more responsive to the needs of what it calls “today’s students.” 

Some College, No Degree: A 2019 Snapshot for the Nation and 50 States,” is a data-rich report from the National Student Clearinghouse that details information on the composition of the “some college, no degree” population, which now numbers 36 million, most of whom are older students. This report is a follow-up to an initial report on the topic in 2014. Perhaps reflecting the newfound attention to adult students, the newer report found that between 2013 and 2018, 3.8 million former students returned to postsecondary education, one quarter of them graduated, and an additional 29 percent were still enrolled without a credential as of December 2018. 

Community College Research Center study describing educational attainment disparities for adults by race and ethnicity. Among the findings: Nearly 60% of Asians and 42% of Whites have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, as compared to 27% of Blacks and 19% of Hispanics and Native Americans.

 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report highlighting income and unemployment differences among adults with college degrees and those without, including that in 2019  adults age 25 and over with a high school diploma or equivalent had median weekly earnings of $746, , as compared to $833 for individuals with some college and $1,248 for workers with a bachelor’s degree.   

The Aspen Institute’s Ascend program, funded by Imaginable Futures, is a hub for resources and information on two-generation educational strategies.  

 

READ MORE ON ADULT LEARNERS:

History and Background

Glossary

Adults at College: 8 Great Story ideas