How can your campus meet the needs of adult and online learners?


This image of an adult college student represents the increasing trend of more adults older than 25 enrolling in colleges and universities.I attended the Sloan-C Conference in Orlando earlier in October—the event to attend on the topic of online learning. I participated in some excellent sessions to learn more about how campuses are serving nontraditional learners.

During a session presented by Dr. Kristen Betts from Armstrong Atlantic State University on “Engaging and Retaining Today’s Diverse Student Population,” she shared the following statistics about the 17.6 million undergrads now enrolled in higher education:

  • 43% attend two-year institutions.
  • 37% are enrolled part-time.
  • 32% are working full-time.
  • 25% are over the age of 30.
  • Only 15% attend four-year colleges and live on campus.

Dr. Bett’s also shared a visual indicating that enrollment in online programs jumped from 229,363 to 2,139,714 between 2001 and 2009—an 832 percent increase.  (This is data from Eduventures, published in US News & World Report, September 2010.) She also referenced that classes offered exclusively on physical campuses are expected to plummet from 14.4 million in 2010 to just 4.1 million by 2015, according to Ambient Insight.

These and other national shifts in demographics for higher education will likely require shifts in assessment strategies for your campus. In particular, assessing different populations on campus will need to be the norm if campuses want a truly accurate view of student satisfaction and priorities among all students.

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About the author

Julie Bryant is associate vice president of retention solutions at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. She consults with institutions throughout North America on student satisfaction assessment, including four-year public and private institutions, two-year public colleges, career schools, and graduate and professional schools.

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