US colleges and universities want you! The nontraditional students.
Fewer high school graduates, rising education costs, and concerns about student loan debt are among the reasons for declines in enrollment. These factors along with the need to increase the number of Americans with a degree or meaningful credential make nontraditional students a highly valued part of the student population.
Nontraditional students are an important part of moving the American economy from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy. Businesses need employees that can work with advanced technology in order to compete in a global marketplace. Workers are facing the need for continual education and upskilling throughout their careers to have skills that allow them to adapt to changing workplace demands.
Higher education enrollment of nontraditional students over age 25 has steadily increased in past years. From 2006 to 2016 it increased 11 percent. This fall 7.4 million students were 25 years of age or over. While the number of nontraditional students has increased, many more Americans need to attain higher education. Lumina Foundation has set a goal that 60 percent of American will have a meaningful credential or degree by 2025. Students of all ages will need to attain higher education to reach that goal.
There simply won’t be enough high school graduates to achieve higher Lumina Foundation’s goal or to produce the number of graduates that businesses need to thrive. The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) predicts that high school graduation rates will be stagnant through 2023. Then after a brief increase in 2026 rates will decline through 2032 and be even lower than they are now.
To reach Lumina’s goal of 60 percent of Americans having a degree or high quality credential by 2025, 16.4 million more Americans will need to earn additional credentials. Currently 63.8 million adult Americans age 25-64 don’t have any post-secondary education, and more than 27 million Americans have some higher education but haven’t earned a credential. Lumina’s goal is that by next year 2 million of these Americans will have attained a credential, and by 2025 a total of 6.1 million will have completed their credentials. Their Strategic Plan for 2017 – 2020 states, “In today’s knowledge economy, where postsecondary skills are vital to getting and keeping a good job, all Americans need opportunities for postsecondary learning leading to a quality credential.”
Businesses that offer education benefits can provide those opportunities. These businesses are also in a strong position to strengthen their workforce and solidify their position in the marketplace at the same time. Providing education benefits makes it possible for employees to complete or further advance their education. Nontraditional students with a career path and education plan will find themselves in the position of being prepared to meet changes in skill demands. And skill demands are definitely going to change according to McKinsey Global Institute. “Based on historical precedent, we expect 8 to 9 percent of 2030’s labor supply will be in new jobs we cannot yet foresee.”
Nontraditional students are a vital component of developing an educated agile workforce, one that can meet quickly changing demands. Employers that provide education benefits for their employees may find that their assistance helps nontraditional students persists towards completion. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center Complete College 2018 report shows that almost 48 percent of nontraditional students over the age of 24 were no longer enrolled in higher education after six years. Education benefits can provide incentive and aid that can prevent nontraditional students from becoming non-completers. Education benefits that move students towards higher education attainment create advantages for all stakeholders.
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