Why More Older Adults are Returning to Education

Young, fresh-faced, eager high school graduates stepping onto campus for the first time is probably the first thought that comes to mind when you picture college students. Kids feeling homesick in dorm rooms, or the freshman 15 – where young people leave home for college and put on 15 pounds from eating cafeteria and convenience food are commonly associated with college students.

However, while younger people certainly represent some part of the college experience, you may be surprised to learn that the overall demographic is changing. Although high school students still make up a large percentage of college attendees, more and more adults and older people are on campus. In 2014, there were 8.2 million college students over the age of 25 – not far behind the 12 million under 24. And, the number has only risen since with a clear upward trend. So, why are more adults returning to school?

#1. It’s More Accessible:

Traditionally, college study has never been easy for those over the age of 25. Unless you were lucky enough to live with your parents and have no commitments while you study, juggling a college degree with a family, your own house, a full-time job, or all three has historically been near impossible. However, today’s range of flexible options has made it easier than ever for adults to take the leap and return to school. For example, this online family nurse practitioner program has made it easier than ever for qualified nurses to improve their career prospects without the need to take time off work to do so, and there’s a myriad of further programs available online that adult students can fit around their commitments easily.

#2. Early Retirement:

Unfortunately, more and more individuals are finding themselves in a situation where they are retiring earlier than expected. Company downturns, economic recession, family, and health complications are just some of the most common reasons as to why somebody might find themselves retiring much sooner than they planned. Often, somebody who is forced to retire early must learn and acquire a new skillset in order to find a new job; something that can be particularly challenging if they are used to a particular industry. Because of this, many adults who’ve found themselves forced into early retirement find themselves back at college, studying to boost their employability.

#3. A Second Career:

For many people, retiring doesn’t actually mean retirement either – to them, it means a chance to launch a second career. For example, somebody who’s served in the military since they were 18 would be able to retire on a full pension just 25-30 years later, giving them time to think about launching a new career. And, a study conducted in 2014 found that over 70% of retirees over the age of 50 want to continue working in some way or another, so many will take steps around five years before retiring to prepare themselves for a new career, before taking a short break after retirement first.

#4. Improved Financial Situation:

Let’s face it – going to college is an expensive process, and not everybody who attends as a high school graduate will be lucky enough to have parents who can support them financially. And on the other hand, although they are available, not everybody is willing to commit to long-term student loan debt. Because of this, we are seeing an increase in students who have waited until their financial situation has improved before they go for their degree. And for many, it’s a wise choice – American graduates currently owe over $1 trillion in student loans, with many being absolutely unable to pay them back. Plus, many students wait as they have no idea what they want to study straight out of high school, and don’t want to waste thousands of dollars on a subject that they may end up hating.

#5. To Improve Their Current Career:

Learning doesn’t end when you’re young, and many older people who find themselves bored at work decide to return to college in order to improve and breathe new life into their current career. And with many employers realizing the benefits of supporting employees through training and development opportunities, many adults returning to college are fully or partially funded by their employer too. A college degree can lead to increased opportunities in the workplace, such as more responsibility, a higher-pay grade, and a bigger chance of climbing the career ladder at a faster pace.

College isn’t just for young people – you can benefit from a college degree at any age.


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