How Universities Can Rethink Support For Growing Number Of Adult Learners
Anya Kamenetz, April 18, 2018
You’ll hear a reasonable amount of discussion about “new traditional” students today. But the common assumption — in Washington at least — seems to be that they require more vocational education to fill a “skills gap,” particularly in STEM or technical fields. Or that they need quicker, cheaper paths to a degree.
if you ask incoming adult community college students about their educational aspirations, more than 70 percent want to get a bachelor’s or beyond.
The problem finding good hires is actually a jumble of different realities. In some sectors (for instance, advanced, digitally driven manufacturing), innovation has outpaced training, and there is truly a shortage of technically skilled workers. Higher ed needs to work with employers and government in these targeted sectors to fill a real “skills gap.”
In other sectors, employers complain they can’t find workers with communications, problem-solving and other soft skills. The solution to that is more liberal learning, not more technical workforce training.
For most nontraditional students, this dimension of “self-authoring” (in the words of psychologist Marcia Baxter Magolda) is not less crucial, but even more. They often feel that they have failed in some way the customary narrative of high-school-to-college that defines successful adulthood.
The obstacles they face are as diverse as their lives. But here’s one key way of understanding what they share: Adult, nontraditional students have to fit their studies into complex lives with multiple roles and stressors, rather than being able to organize their work and social life around a central role as a college student.
more on higher ed in this IMS blog: