College isn’t just for the young.
Unlock the potential of millions of working adults with these three strategies.
Sometimes, life gets in the way of completing college. A serious illness, an unexpected baby, the loss of financial aid — there are countless reasons why a student might fail to complete the degree program she set out to achieve. That is why there are roughly 37 million people with some college credits but no degrees in the U.S.
Each year, millions of people return to college with the goal of getting their credentials. Some are looking to advance in their current careers or head in an exciting new direction. Others want to fulfill promises they made to themselves or want to be good role models for their children.
Whatever the motivation, most returning students don’t make it to the finish line. Only about one-third of non-first-time students end up completing their degrees. With projections indicating that 65% of U.S. jobs will soon require postsecondary education, this poses a huge problem for our citizens and our economy.
Improving College Graduation Rates for Working Adult Students
There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about how to make America great. And improving completion rates for returning students is one critical step toward national prosperity.
To do that, we must meet these students halfway and make it possible for them to quickly earn an affordable degree. The best bet for your institution to help adult students along this path is to offer more personalized and accelerated pathways to postsecondary credentials.
The process doesn’t have to be difficult or prohibitively expensive. Here are a few basic steps:
1. Help students maximize their incoming credits.
The shorter the path from enrollment to completion, the more likely students are to finish their degree programs. This is especially true for those who typically attend classes part-time while balancing jobs, families, and other personal commitments.
One way to shorten the path is to make sure students get full credit for prior learning, leaving the number of credits needed to complete their credentials as small as possible. Studies show that graduation rates for students who received credit for prior learning are actually 2.5 times higher. What’s more, the practice of assessing prior credit benefits students, institutions, and society in other ways.
Many organizations — including the American Council on Education, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, and the College Board — offer resources for institutions seeking to enhance their policies and programs around credit for prior learning. A key challenge is to make students aware of assessment options. To that end, ACE, for example, provides links to institutional websites to use as models of how this can be done effectively.