Go Back to College at any Age: Over 50 and College Part 3

The Older Student: 50 and Growing

The number of older students (50 years and older) is growing. In fact, the number of students ages 50 to 64 increased 17 percent between fall 2007 and fall 2009, according to the latest data available from the National Center for Education Statistics.6 With the growing number of older students has come an increase in specifically tailored college programs designed to assist with this segment of the population:

  • In 2008, the American Association of Community Colleges launched its "Plus 50 Initiative" on 15 campuses and has since expanded to 21.
  • Individual schools, including University of California schools in Los Angeles and Riverside, have recently launched boomer-specific programs.

Online Education Offers The Flexibility Older Students Need Now

The expansion and availability of online college courses has been a major innnovation for students seeking their degree. The anytime, anywhere technology platform offers an unmatched level of flexibility to an experienced student. If you want to take classes, in a way that can be career-focused, meet your budget and provide you with extreme convenience, you are an ideal candidate for online education. In fact, you’re not alone; a survey of adult learners by Eduventures found that having “the most convenient schedule” was the number one reason cited for enrolling in post-secondary course work.7

Given the desire for flexibility and a convenient schedule, it should come as no surprise that researchers discovered a great interest among adult learners in courses and programs delivered in an accelerated summer session, or in a 100 percent online or hybrid format. Driven partly by the need of this population, the growth rate and quality of online education is soaring:

  • In 2008, about 20 percent of all undergraduates took at least one online education course.
  • 4 percent of all undergraduates took their entire program through online education.
  • Almost two-thirds of for-profit institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.8
  • The 21 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2 percent growth in the overall higher education student population.9

6 Hill, Catey, Smart Money, Is Going Back to School Over 50 Worth it? 7/18/2011, p.1

7 Community Colleges: Ageless Learning, Plus 50 Students: Tapping into a Growing Market, p.2.

8 Sloan Consortium, Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010, p.1