Two strategies to ease the path to re-enrollment for adult degree completers

Movement to improve post-secondary degree attainment hinges on adult learners

The Lumina Foundation has set the ambitious goal of ensuring that 60% of U.S. adults will earn a high-quality credential by 2025. State governments from Colorado to Arkansas have set similar goals, pledging to double the number of credential holders in their states. The challenge is that, as of 2010, only 38% of U.S. adults had earned a high-quality credential.

Increasingly, higher education leaders are realizing how important adult learners and certificates might be in improving that figure. Consequently, eyes are on COE units to meet national completion goals.

“While the specifics and timeframes of these goals may differ, one thing is true across the board: none of them will be met by only improving the ‘traditional’ education pipeline. States and institutions will also have to increase the number of adults who earn a postsecondary degree.”
-Patrick Lane, Demaré K. Michelau, and Iris Palmer
WICHE/HCM Strategists

Adult learners present a massive market of prospective students for completion programs. Nearly 54 million adults in the U.S. hold an associate’s degree or attended some college without earning a bachelor’s degree. And that number is growing—every year, 450,000 first-time, full-time students drop out before completing a degree. Even with the assumption that a career-oriented associate’s degree is a high-quality credential, approximately 34 million adults remain as a potential market for degree completion programs.

Serve adult learners with the right program offerings

Institutions that expand their COE portfolios without specific institutional priorities in mind risk creating a mix of program offerings that are expensive and disconnected from institutional priorities of access, degree completion, and revenue growth. By targeting specific curricular "gaps," COE units can improve retention, reduce time-to-degree, and attract new students to existing programs. Read an excerpt from our Online Course Prioritization Guide to learn more about prioritizing resources to the most promising opportunities. Download the excerpt

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