The 12 most innovative colleges for adult learners

While student demographics have been shifting toward older students who work and parent, few publications signal which institutions best support the growing segment of adult learners, argues Paul Glastris for Washington Monthly.

By forgoing traditional metrics for newer criteria, the publication helps surface lesser-known regional colleges that deliver quality education for adult learners, he writes.

Leading radical change at community colleges

To create the rankings, researchers gave each institution a score according to seven metrics, such as ease of enrollment, program flexibility, affordability, and proportion of students over the age of 25. Researchers also considered data from the College Scorecard, including average earnings of students, who either graduated or dropped out.

See a selection of the lists below, or check out Washington Monthly's full set of rankings here.

*Note to readers: EAB congratulates member institutions that were named on the lists. Member institutions listed here are marked with an asterisk.

Best colleges for adult learners – two-year institutions

1. Weber State University
2. Utah Valley University*
3. Foothill College
4. Central Texas College
5. Raritan Valley Community College  

Best colleges for adult learners – four-year institutions

1. Golden Gate University*
2. University of Utah*
3. Concordia University, St. Paul
4. Park University*
5. George Mason University*

See the best colleges of 2017, according to Washington Monthly

12 most innovative colleges for adult learners

In addition to ranking two-year and four-year institutions, Washington Monthly’s editors also chose 12 institutions that are revolutionizing the college experience for older students.

Here's a selection of strategies in place at institutions named to the list:

Odessa College (OC)

OC is the first Texas institution to transition 80% of its courses from 16-week semesters to two eight-week terms, writes Joshua Alvarez for Washington Monthly. The shorter term cycle, coupled with targeted teaching improvements, has helped OC double the graduation rate of its male Hispanic students in the last five years, he notes.

University of Maryland University College* (UMUC)

UMUC designed a web tool to help its military and veteran students make a successful transition to civilian life, writes Alvarez. In addition, the college partners with to provide free math and writing tutoring to its veteran student population.

Bunker Hill Community College* (BHCC)

A little over two thirds of community college students lack consistent access to food, reports Alvarez. To tackle the food crisis on their own campus, BHCC has established several programs to feed hungry students, including a partnership with Panera, which delivers unpurchased bread to the college.

Monroe Community College* (MCC)

The college mined local and state government sources as well as surveyed 2,400 Rochester businesses on openings and desired skills to create real-time data on the regional labor market, writes Alvarez. MCC takes these findings and tailors course offerings to prepare students for employment, he reports.

Other colleges selected as "most innovative" included:

Community College of Philadelphia

Salt Lake Community College

Southern New Hampshire University, College for America*

Western Governors University*

Broward College*

Texas A&M University-Texarkana*

Chaffey College

University of Wyoming*

3 ways to grow adult learner enrollments

(Glastris, Washington Monthly, 8/29; Alvarez, Washington Monthly, 8/29; Washington Monthly rankings, accessed 8/29; Washington Monthly methodology, accessed 8/29)

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