Interest in degree completion by all Americans is at an all-time high as our nation looks to meet the demands of our workforce and to ensure our economic stability long-term. Adult degree completion, both for adults with some college credit and those who have never attended college, is an integral part of realizing these goals. Although once considered unconventional, adult students have been a growing population for colleges, especially with online programs and courses reducing barriers for them. At a time when government funding to colleges and universities has decreased dramatically, colleges and universities are provided with an opportunity to increase their enrollment and revenue by serving the needs of these adults through outreach and advising resources.
As a nation, we’re facing an increasing demand for highly skilled workers when more and more jobs in today’s technology and information driven economy require a credential. It is projected that by 2020, 65% of all jobs in the US will require education and training beyond high school, with 35% requiring a bachelor’s degree and 30% requiring some college or an associate’s degree.1
In 2013, only 40% of the working population (ages 25-64) possessed at least an associate’s degree, leaving our attainment levels far below those needed for the future strength of our economy.2 Adult students are an integral part of filling this gap and ensuring our nations’ fiscal stability for the long run.
 ”Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020” Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, June 2013.
 ”A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education” Lumina Foundation, 2015.
A record number of American adults are returning to college, or attending for the first time. In 2013, there were 8.2 million students 25 years old and over enrolled in degree-granting institutions, accounting for roughly 40% of all college students. Between 2000 and 2012, the enrollment of this cohort increased by 35%. It is projected that by 2023, the rate of increase for students age 25 and over will be 20%.3
There are various reasons for this growth. Tough economic conditions in recent years drove many high school graduates directly into the workforce, forcing them to postpone college until they could afford it. For various reasons, some started college but never finished due to life circumstances – an estimated 31 million adults over the past twenty years.4 While others are looking to develop their skills and expertise in order to launch a second career, or take their current career in a slightly new direction. A recent national survey revealed that 59% of working adults in the US, and nearly three-fourths of professionals in their 30s are interested in changing careers.5
 ”Digest of Education Statistics” National Center for Education Statistics, 2013.
 ”Some College, No Degree: A National View of Students with Some College Enrollment, but No Completion” National Student Clearinghouse, July, 2014.
 ”U.S. Working Adult Career Survey” University of Phoenix School of Business, 2015.
During our nation’s Great Recession, postsecondary institutions saw significant decreases in state funding as higher education spending is typically a discretionary budget item. While the overall state and local funding reached $86.3 billion in 2014, an increase of 5.7% from 2013, it remains well below pre-recession levels.6 Slow recovery, future economic downturns and competing mandatory expenditures only add to future higher education funding challenges.7
With declining appropriations of state funds, colleges and universities have been faced with steep increases in the amount of revenue that must be covered by tuition and nontraditional revenue streams. The adult student population provides colleges and universities with the chance to increase their enrollments beyond traditional students and increase their funding avenues. Beyond enrollment, retaining and graduating these students opens the door to increased outcomes funding opportunities.
 ”SHEF – FY 2014 State Higher Education Finance” SHEEO, 2015.
 ”Hot Topics in Higher Education: Appropriations” National Conference of State Legislatures, September 2015.
Going to college has never been easier thanks to online education. In 2012, a little more than 12% of all American postsecondary students enrolled exclusively in online courses or online degree programs, with another 13% taking at least some courses online.8
Adults often have concerns about the time and commitment needed to complete a degree while balancing their responsibilities. In a recent survey, family obligation was perceived as the biggest barrier preventing adult students from completing a degree followed by work and career.9 Providing adults with the benefit of flexible course scheduling and delivery methods that accommodate their busy lives, not only helps them to balance their responsibilities, but also leads them on the path to degree completion.
 ”Enrollment in Distance Education Courses, by State: Fall 2012” National Center for Education Statistics, June
 ”From Contact to Completion: Supporting Returning Adult Students in Obtaining a College Credential” Higher Ed Insight, October 2012.
Adult students have many responsibilities competing for their time. Colleges and universities looking to attract adult learners not only need to provide flexible course scheduling and delivery methods, but services tailored to them that support their goal of degree attainment.
AcademyOne’s solutions can help lead your efforts to advancing adult college completion and providing students with the support they need to be successful. For returning adults, as well as those who have never attended college before, our Prior Learning Assessment solution expands their opportunities to earn credit for their life and work experiences, reducing time to degree completion and increasing their success. For adults that have some college credit and are choosing to complete a credential, our Transfer and Articulation solutions help facilitate the portability of their academic credit, allowing them to assess whether their credits will transfer and how they’ll transfer before they even enroll. To learn more about the work we do and our solutions, check out our state and institutional client success stories.
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AcademyOne is a consulting and software development firm working in the higher education sphere. We deliver industry-leading solutions to states and institutions who wish to improve student retention and degree completion rates, especially among the growing population of nontraditional learners.