Higher Education’s Relevance Motivates Adult Students | Edcor

Higher Education’s Relevance Motivates Adult Students

Higher education’s relevance to a person’s life is generally the key factor in whether or not individuals think their education is or was a valuable experience. Americans in the workforce have many compelling reasons to pursue higher education, and whatever their motivation, relevance is what will make them persevere. “Relevance – and its importance to the value of higher ed for consumers – holds transformational potential that must not be ignored,” said Carol A. Amico, Executive Vice President of Strada Education Network. 

The Strada Education and Gallup report From College to Life: Relevance and the Value of Higher Education defines relevance as students having courses that are directly related to their work responsibilities and learning skills that they use in their daily life. Adults who have persevered to complete education recognized the relevance of their higher education to their career:  43 percent of adults with post graduate education say that their education is relevant to their career and daily lives, compared to only 14 percent of those who have some college but no degree.

Job forecasts predict that in the next few years 65 percent of jobs in American will require postsecondary education. Americans appear to be well aware of this fact, as well as recognizing higher education’s relevance to their work:  46 percent of Americans believe they need additional education to move ahead in their careers and 53 percent of adults without degrees say they are likely or very likely to go back to school in the next five years. 

The Strada Education and Gallup report Back to School? What Adults Without Degrees Say About Pursing Additional Education and Training identifies motivators that would propel Americans to go back to school. The top five are:

  • Guaranteed employment outcome such as job placement or wage increase motivates 57 percent
  • Free community college tuition motivates 55 percent
  • Courses and training that fits a person’s schedule motivate 54 percent
  • Low-cost tuition motivates 47 percent
  • Courses and training that employers need motivate 47 percent

These motivators show a connection between higher education’s relevance to Americans’ work, their personal and professional lives, and the value of employer tuition benefits.

For adult students to persist they need to understand their education’s relevance to their career opportunities. Employers can help workers identify career paths and opportunities. With counseling as part of a tuition assistance program, employers can help workers identify an education path that will equip workers with the knowledge and skills they will need for job advancement or increased wages. Employers can be transparent about the skills they need and the courses and training that their employees will need to fill those jobs. These best practices will connect employees, their education and workforce development needs. These practices will make higher education’s relevance to employees’ lives very clear. Adult workers can also see the relevance of their education to their lives when they have the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the workplace. “Adult learners are results-oriented. 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,” states the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.

Motivators for a return to school relating to higher education costs create a direct connection between adult students’ work and employer education benefits. The financial relief that tuition assistance provides for workers allows them to pursue advanced education at any level. With tuition assistance they can create an education plan that is clearly relevant to their work and increases their employer’s productivity. Establishing and following through on an education plan that benefits both employee and employer truly establishes higher education’s relevance to career success.