5 Stats You Should Know About Adult Learners


If you're an education provider, a family member or a friend of an adult learner, an institution, or an adult learner yourself, check out this blog post to learn five statistics you should know about adult learners.

Adult Learning Today

Adult learners, generally defined as post-secondary students over the age of 25, and sometimes including students in adult situations such as parents and primary caregivers, are a large part of the college population. Unfortunately, they are often unseen and underserved. Read on to learn some surprising stats about the state of adult learning in the United States today.

Adult Learners: 5 Key Stats

1. Nontraditional adult learners represent almost 40% of all post-secondary students in the United States.

According to a 2009 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 38.2% of the post-secondary population in the U.S. is comprised of adult learners. And this number is only increasing. From 2000 to 2012, the number of students over the age of 25 who enrolled in college increased by 35%. And by 2019, this student population is projected to increase by another 23%, making it the fastest-growing population segment in higher education.

An adult learner happy to be in college

2. A third of college students start their education as adults.

The National Student Clearing House found that over one in three college students begin their education after the age of 25. And one in five students begin after the age of 30. This statistic conflicts with the common idea of a college campus populated solely by young students straight out of high school. The reality is much more diverse.

3. Almost 5 million college students are parents.

According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, 23% of undergraduate students are parents. A 2017 article estimates this number to be approximately 4.8 million college students. As you can imagine, this can present quite the challenge for students trying to balance family life with their education.

A college student who is also a parent

4. 38% of adult learners leave college after their first year.

Perhaps because of the challenge of juggling responsibilities such as parenting and full-time work with college, 38% of adult learners who start a college degree program leave within their first year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, 41% of adult learners who leave their college programs before finishing their degrees cite financial problems as their reason.

5. Less than half of adult learners earn a degree.

The number of adult learners who finish their degree programs is, unfortunately, quite low. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 48.9% of adult learners who enrolled in 2011 graduated within six years at 4-year institutions. A different study released by the same research center in 2014 found that only one in three adult learners who re-enrolled in college between the years 2005 and 2008, after a minimum of one year away from higher education, earned a degree after six to eight years. This rate was 27% lower than first-time students' graduation rates.

An adult learner graduating

Did you find any of these stats surprising? Let us know on Twitter @studydotcom.

For a flexible, online college option that works with your schedule, check out Study.com's College Accelerator.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
January 2019
college adult learners

Never miss an update