3 tweaks colleges make so adult learners can focus on learning

As more students with non-traditional characteristics step onto campus, some colleges and universities work to ease the path for enrollment and persistence, Patti Zarling writes for Education Dive.

For adult students, the weight of external responsibilities can make college especially difficult to navigate. Often, seemingly small logistical setbacks—like missing a textbook—can lead adult learners to stop out.

To boost adult student retention, some colleges are taking over logistics, so students can focus on learning, Zarling writes. Here's how.

1: Deliver course materials

At Tufts University's Gordon Institute, an all-inclusive masters programs in engineering management delivers textbooks to the student's doorstep, Zarling writes. Adult students are juggling multiple responsibilities and don't have time to buy books from the campus bookstore, says Rebekah Plotkin, associate director of the Gordon Institute.

The book delivery system ensures students come to class, Plotkin adds. To calculate the textbook fees for each semester, administrators average the course material costs over the seven-course program, Zarling writes.

2: Offer meals

Tufts' all-inclusive program also includes meals. The Gordon Institute offers students a lounge area to enjoy a buffet-style dinner before classes, Zarling writes. The space makes students "feel they are part of the school," says Plotkin, but it also gives them a separate area away from the "dining hall with 20-year-olds." The program's comprehensive price tag also helps students who are seeking tuition reimbursement from their employers, Zarling adds.

Related: Leverage tuition reimbursement to recruit adult learners

3: Remind students to re-enroll

Problems that may seem minor—like difficulty finding the right class time—can lead adult students to leave school, writes Peter Cellier for EAB's Continuing and Online Education Forum. At Regis University's School of Professional studies, administrators monitor a list of currently enrolled graduate students who are not registered for future courses. If students haven't enrolled by the third week of the term, unenrolled students receive an email reminding them to re-enroll.

After the email campaign, the number of unenrolled students in Fall 2013 dropped from 1,062 to 811, Cellier writes. In follow-up, all remaining unregistered students receive a phone call from a re-enrollment counselor assigned to support specific graduate programs. As a result of this outreach, an additional 830 students enrolled at Regis. With a conservative estimate of $1,500 per course, the practice yielded $1.1 million in tuition revenue, Cellier adds (Zarling, Education Dive, 2/26).

Keep reading: How proactive, well-timed communications can promote persistence


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