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Older Adults Are Heading Back to School

Chatham University
Chatham University

Based on current trends, it seems traditional college-aged students are having to make room for older adults in their classrooms. Recent research by EAB, a Washington, D.C.-based education consulting firm, indicates an estimated 38% of undergraduates are considered adult learners older than age 25. Another recent survey of 2,000 parents reveals that 44% of them plan to return to college to pursue their dreams and new interests.

While the reasons for this back-to-school surge among older adults are varied, 62% of the parents interviewed acknowledged their decision was partially influenced by the realization that life is short, and there’s no time like the present to pursue their dreams. Others acknowledged that additional education could provide a fresh perspective on life, while some older adults return to school to complete a degree they started but never completed.

Adults Seeking a New Career Path

“At La Roche University, we see adults who are looking for a career change and want to do something totally different,” said Acting Provost and Academic Dean at La Roche University, Rosemary McCarthy, Ph.D., RN. “For instance, our Master of Arts in Teaching is for aspiring teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree in any field. The program helps them easily make a career change and earn initial Pennsylvania teaching certification in just 15 months.”

La Roche University
La Roche University

La Roche also meets the needs of students interested in becoming nurses. “Our entry-level Master of Science in Nursing program is designed to offer students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field the opportunity to become a nurse with a master’s degree in as few as 20 months,” explained McCarthy.

Chatham University
Chatham University

At Chatham University, Kyra Tucker, program director and chair of interior architecture, often sees adults seeking a new career path. “The Master of Interior Architecture (MIA) is a five-term on-campus, 72 credit-hour, first professional CIDA-accredited degree program for students with an undergrad degree in a field other than interior design or architecture,” she explained. “Every MIA student has a different story, but I often see people who realize they are on a career path that isn’t right for them. We have lawyers, pre-med students, accountants, you name it. Most of the time it was family pressure that led them to their current position or perhaps they had a full-ride scholarship at a specific university where interior design wasn’t offered, so they had to select something else. Whatever the reason, when they realize they have always had an eye for design, and further realize they can’t manage another day in their current career, they come to us.”

The demographics of the students are varied. “Students in their late 20s may have gone to work and quickly realized it wasn’t for them,” said Tucker. “Older students may have put in the time for a couple of decades despite not enjoying their career and are now in a position financially to invest in their happiness…in their future.”

Chatham’s MIA program has a high graduation rate. “People who invest the time, energy and love into the program really want to be here, and they very much realize it’s a life-changing endeavor for them,” said Tucker. “I think it’s important to understand that if this is something that interests you, don’t ignore it. You owe it to yourself to at least come and see what we do. Come sit in on a class and talk to us; our doors are always open.”

Adults Seeking New Skills for Career Advancement

With many adults working remotely in the post-pandemic world, a forward-thinking approach is vital. As the nature of work evolves, many employed adults are realizing the importance of new skills and qualifications to advance in their careers.

“We also see adult students who are looking for a promotion and come to La Roche to earn an advanced degree. We see this mostly in our health-related fields with nurses returning for advanced degrees,” said McCarthy.

Striving for a Work/Life Balance

Also in the post-pandemic world, maintaining a manageable work/life balance has become more of a priority. Finding a degree program that provides flexibility is key. “La Roche University offers flexibility with both online and evening courses, especially within our degree completion programs and graduate programs,” said McCarthy. “Most adult students are looking for asynchronous courses, so they can attend classes while still working. Many also have to balance responsibilities at home with their classwork.” Additionally, La Roche offers credit for life experience to adult students, meaning credit can be applied toward a degree for their past work experience and prior learning.

Accessibility is also at the forefront of Chatham’s MIA program. “We have designed a program that is inclusive and accessible to everyone,” explained Tucker. “For example, we organize the program so that in-person class time can be as little as two times a week. We also start classes at 6:00 pm to help working adults manage their schedules.”

Whatever the reason, if you’re an adult considering going back to school, Tucker encourages you to go for it. “There are so many people in our program that were afraid to take the plunge, but they never regretted it after they did!”

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