60% of adults have considered returning to college, but worry about cost

Adults without a bachelor's degree want to go back to college, but worry about the student loans and overall affordability, finds a nationwide survey from Full Circle Research and Champlain College Online.

Researchers at Full Circle conducted this online survey with a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 23 and 55 who did not have bachelor's degrees. Respondents were asked about their perceptions of higher education and online learning.

Respondents expressed a positive attitude toward college. Around 70% of respondents believe colleges successfully prepare adult students for the workplace, and 70% believe having a bachelor's degree is important to secure a job. Roughly 60% have considered returning to school to complete a degree.

However, finances pose a major barrier. About 75% of respondents say they worry about student loans and 70% feel unable to afford college.

Adult learners present a massive market of prospective students for completion programs, writes Carla Hickman for EAB's Continuing and Online Education Forum. Nearly 54 million U.S. adults hold an associate degree or attended some college without earning a bachelor’s degree.

Keep reading: 2 strategies to ease the path to re-enrollment for adult learners

For too many of these students, however, the financial barriers to degree completion seem too high, writes Hickman.

The University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies tackles financial re-entry barriers with their "Back to Bama" Campaign. The campaign targets students who suffered an academic "false start" and provides a clean slate as well as financial incentives to return. Students are invited to enroll in their first course for free and complete a simple form to be eligible for scholarships and financial aid, writes Hickman.

Also see: Resolve financial issues to improve adult student success

Ultimately, easing the path for re-enrollment is critical to filling the more than 6 million open jobs in the United States, writes Jeremy House for Education Dive. And equipping adult learners with the skills they need to advance their careers requires collaboration between employers, colleges, and policy makers, he argues.

For instance, Monroe Community College (MCC) partners with regional businesses to better understand local employment needs. In 2017, 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. MCC takes these findings and tailors course offerings to prepare students for employment (Alvarez, Washington Monthly, 8/29/17; House, Education Dive, 1/25/18; Champlain College Online release, 1/25/18).

Read more about the adult learner market

Adult learners: Who they are & what they want from college

How 3 colleges keep adult learners on track to graduate

3 tweaks colleges make so adult learners can focus on learning

4 things adult learners want out of college

To recruit more adult students, think like Amazon


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