Explaining the Trend of Older Students Returning to College

In the new millennium students over the age of twenty-five make up forty-seven percent of College enrollee’s. The trend of older students returning to college began in 1970, and increased by two hundred and thirty five percent by 1993. The rise of the digital age saw more and more College’s and Universities begin offering and delivering distance education, fuelling adult enrollment even further.

Older students who choose to further their education generally fall under two specific categories; those who need to upgrade their education due to necessity, and those who want to pursue a new interest or career path in later life. Students aged fifty five to seventy-nine are not uncommon on both traditional College campuses or in on-line University classroom’s.

Factors fuelling the return to the classroom:

More funding options

Adults have traditionally found funding University and College educations very difficult. Financial aid institutions and scholarships were directed at the eighteen to twenty four year old crowd, alienating everyone else in particular single parents. Now, funding options are available for just about every age and demographic through such government aid sites such as College Answer, funded by Sally Mae, and private scholarship directories such as Fast Aid, created by Dan Cassidy of the “Scholarship Book”. Many post secondary institutions offer greatly reduced and in some cases free education to Veteran’s and Seniors, while middle aged students can pay for individual college credits and take many years to finish a Degree.

 More educational options

Literally thousands of degree combinations now exist. While IT and Business programs have taken precedence in the last couple of decades, Liberal Arts programs that give a rounded general education are now making a strong comeback. For adults returning to education, a whole host of subjects and training in areas of technology, science, medicine, environmental studies that didn’t even exist twenty-five years ago, have created new career opportunities for victims of the recession and corporate downsizing.

Coupled with new College and Degree programs is the rapid increase of corporate training modules and continuing education credits through various campuses. These short term programs often focus on learning a specific skill, or skill set to enable someone to progress in an existing job or move to a promotion. The flip side shows adults enrolled in short term courses especially in the Arts to fulfill a passion or help turn a hobby into a home based job.

 More delivery of education choices

Gone are the days when the only way to get a post secondary education as an adult was to quit your day job, live in poverty and sit in a classroom all day. Adult learners are fuelling diverse delivery of education; whether through a combination of traditional and on-line learning, or through entire distance based College and Degree programs. The classroom has come to us, and learning is now a 24/7 operation to be completed at our convenience.


Adult learners are fuelling educational trends. Returning to school whether through necessity or simply a desire to better one’s self has led to increased funding, increased educational options and increased ways of accessing both traditional and non-traditional learning. In the new millennium, a balanced work-family-study life can be attained without dire poverty. No-one needs to remain uneducated, and it’s up to us to pursue the choices available.