Tuition Assistance Builds Persistence

If all adult students needed to finish their higher education were motivation and self-discipline, everyone would have a degree. Most adult students have motivation to complete or advance their education so they can acquire skills and knowledge they need for careers. They already have the self-discipline to manage a career and a family. Often they can find the missing element – persistence – as they use their employer tuition assistance program to complete higher education while they work.

As adult students progress through higher education, they will find education and career opportunities that build their persistence, commitment and success. Tuition assistance programs that encourage employees to set education and career goals will automatically create the environment for persistence. Setting goals helps students visualize the potential value of their education. David DeSteno, Northeastern University psychology professor says, “Future goals, because of the increased value attached to them, simply become more attractive to pursue in their own right.” Pursuing and reaching goals creates a sense of pride which increases persistence and the chances of success. DeSteno explains that a person who is proud will put even more effort into developing skills that other people value.

Persistence increases when adult student have a sense of some control over their own learning, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). This autonomy will make student more likely to take on challenges and persist with tasks. A tuition assistance programs that encourages students to follow a career and education path by choosing courses that are relevant to their work will increase students’ sense of control over their education. The sense of control over their success creates persistence.

Seeing the relevance of course work greatly increases persistence. Adults are results-oriented says the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). “They need to know that the material is relevant to their goals. They prefer the practical to the theoretical, and want to be able to apply what they learn immediately.” Opportunities to apply what is being learned to a work situation is a benefit for adult students. The immediate application of their new knowledge and skills helps increase persistence in pursuing goals for adults. Younger traditional students may find enough that promises of future success create enough motivation to build persistence. The time perspective for adults is different, however. They don’t always have the luxury of “someday.” Adults’ time perspective is one of immediate applications. Adults build persistence when they see the relevance of their course work and experience success applying it to their career. Immediate application helps adults persist as they move toward long-term goals.

NASEM says that building learners’ belief that they will be successful is important in building learners’ persistence. “When learners expect to succeed, they are more likely to put forth the effort and the persistence needed to perform well. More-confident students are more likely to be more cognitively engaged in learning and thinking than students who doubt their capabilities.” Tuition assistance programs build these beliefs and feelings of success. Students’ pursuit of higher education is part of a bigger picture that includes their own personal success along with career growth in the company.

Tuition assistance can also increase adult student persistence by making students feel they have the support of a strong network. College can be intimidating for students who may have stopped out of their higher education. Tuition assistance programs that invest in workers create a network and sense of community rather than isolation.

Adult learners want to succeed in their education; 89 percent of students who started their education but left school without a degree are interested in returning. Whether their motivation is to finish what they started or create career opportunities, their greatest need is to develop persistence. Tuition assistance programs are the means for that to happen. When students have autonomy in choosing an education path that is relevant to them, can see immediate results, and have the support of a network, persistence toward long-term goals will follow.