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Paradigm Shift: More than 40 Percent of College Students Now Adult Learners

By Joseph Dussault

Each year, legions of adult learners – that is, students who are 25 years old or older – take a first or second chance at higher education. This growing demographic tends to be ambitious, capable, and eager to learn. But until now, there was no large-scale ranking of colleges that cater to the group.

On Sept. 12, Washington Monthly released the first-ever list of best colleges for adult learners. The ranking considers factors such as ease of transfer, tuition cost, and program flexibility. According to these metrics, the top schools tend to be smaller public universities, rather than big-name private colleges.

More than 40 percent of Americans enrolled in colleges are adult learners. Nevertheless, they’re often considered “nontraditional” students, with many colleges and universities just starting to consider their diverse needs, and how they differ from the 18-21 year-old crowd.

Frequently, however, online and for-profit colleges jumping into the gap with flexible programs aimed at part-time students and working parents have met with mixed results. Several such schools have come under fire, and even indictment, for issuing empty degrees and for encouraging students to take on predatory loans. Washington Monthly’s rankings not only offer adult learners a

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1 Comment for “Paradigm Shift: More than 40 Percent of College Students Now Adult Learners”

  1. I was a non-traditional adult learner who returned to college to earn my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I’m grateful for the one-on-one advisement and consistent guidance I received at ECU (Greenville, NC)from Day One to Graduation Day and beyond into grad school.

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