The number of Americans age 18 to 21, the traditional college age, has decreased by nearly 700,000 since 2011—from 18.1 to 17.4 million—according to research from the University of Virginia. With this decline, many colleges could turn to older non-first-time students to maintain enrollment numbers and financial goals.
Yet, more than 2.5 million adult learners who re-entered higher ed between 2005 and 2008 have not completed a degree, according to a new study released by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).
Jobs, finances and raising families are some of the many reasons why non-first-time students don’t complete, says Dave Jarrat, vice president of marketing at the higher ed consulting firm InsideTrack, which organized the study. To combat that, students need help to develop effective time management skills and support when laying out their financial paths, he says.
“Many returning students have prior negative experiences with higher education or have been out for so long that they feel out of place,” Jarrat adds. “Providing an up-front conversation designed to normalize the experience and reassure them that they are entirely capable of succeeding, if they set their mind to it and work hard, can make a world of difference.”