Many non-traditional students feel inept when going back to school because they feel they may “have a hard time keeping up with the 18 year olds.” A recent study shows that the average age of college students is well north of 18. A report published by the U.S. Census showed the average age of students enrolled in postsecondary online institutions is 36.
There are several factors involved in the age increase but it shows that the fear many non-traditional students have in keeping up with younger students is unfounded. In fact, non-traditional students may be the norm soon. Let’s take a look at the reasons behind the age increase.
The cost of tuition is causing many students to delay enrolling in postsecondary degree programs. Instead they are choosing to work or join the military to earn money for school.
Online schooling has definitely been a game changer. Before schooling became an option on the internet most people’s only opportunity to go to school was right out of high school.
Now that online education is readily available adults can attend school even when they have jobs and families. In fact, the country’s second largest postsecondary institution is the online school University of Phoenix with an enrollment of over 420,000 students. UofP ranks right behind the network of schools that make up the State University of New York (SUNY).
Nowadays a bachelor’s degree is not a ticket to a good job in all cases. Many careers require a master’s degree or above to get ahead. This has caused the average age of enrollment to increase as people typically enroll in a master’s program after graduating with their bachelor’s degree and working for at least two years.
When the unemployment rate falls enrollment in higher education increases. People who cannot find work often utilize the time to head back to the classroom and get a degree or job training. Again, the online option works great for these people because they still have plenty of time to search for a job while going to school.
Baby Boomer Effect
Today’s baby boomers are active and enjoy lifelong learning. Many enroll in college for personal enrichment reasons. There was also a spike of baby boomers who enrolled in schools seeking degrees because they had to go back to work after their retirement funds took major downswings because of the lagging economy.
Longer Life Expectancy
People are living longer meaning they spend more time in the workforce and need more education. The average retirement age use to be the average life expectancy age about 65 years ago.