Back To Adult Learners

Adults at College: 8 Great Story ideas

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Back To Adult Learners
  1. Financial aid: Many states and colleges have rules (such as age limits, early application deadlines or minimum credit requirements) that reduce the amount of grants available to adults. Are your community’s or college’s rules friendly to adults? Check them by asking financial aid departments at local schools what their age-related policies are.
  2. Accelerated credit opportunities: Many adults want a chance to earn credit for skills gained in the military or job training through “prior learning assessments” (PLA) or competency-based credit programs. Find out whether such opportunities are available in your community by checking with community colleges, public universities and private institutions to determine what their policies are.
  3. Red tape: As many as  6.6 million potential students can’t get access to their transcripts to re-enroll because of debts owed to their prior colleges — sometimes for matters as trivial as unpaid parking tickets. A few colleges have started using pandemic bailout funds to clear those debts, and some states have passed or are considering laws prohibiting transcript holds. Check with the registrar departments of local colleges to see if they have similar policies, and check your state/municipality’s laws to determine whether these issues apply to students in your area.
  4. Inconvenient class schedules or formats: Working adults often prefer more compressed and hybrid classes than the typical two- or three- in-person classes per week for 16-weeks schedule found at traditional colleges. You can find out what the schedules are like at the schools in your area by checking course listings, which are usually available online. In addition, review the extension programs that schools offer to see if there are more neighborhood-friendly programs available, or at unique hours.
  5. Lack of relevant services: Colleges focused on 18-to-24-year olds often fail to provide services adults need, such as career counseling for those already in the workforce, child care, (about 30 percent of the community-college population are parents). Check with the career services departments of the colleges in your area, as well as at the student services offices to find out which resources are available.
  6. Marketing: Are the colleges in your community aggressively recruiting adult students? If so, what are their marketing messages and where are they advertising? Do the web sites and admissions materials show images of older students? The first place to look is on the admissions page of the colleges in your area so you can see how these schools are marketing themselves. And be sure to look at the drop-down menus on the pages where students might inquire about information: Do the age categories even allow for older students to sign up?
  7. State policies: Does your state’s public-college funding formula explicitly or implicitly reward or punish institutions for enrolling more adult students? Do state policies encourage colleges to collaborate with employers or industry groups to develop degree programs or onramps that connect adults to in-demand jobs? Do state “free college” or “College Promise” programs specifically include older students? Does the state run outreach programs that encourage older adults to return to college, (if so, do those messages and offerings resonate?)
  8. Stackable options: To get adults back in the learning game, many states and colleges are launching non-degree programs, such as Virginia’s Fast Forward program, that offer short-term credentials that could eventually “stack” into a degree, an approach now increasingly being described as “credentialing as you go.” Find out if your area has any similar programs