Is 30 the New 20? Why More Adults Are Going Back to School

When thinking of the average college student you may think of an 18-22 year old who lives on campus and attends a 4-year college full time. Surprisingly, only a small percentage of students actually fall into this category of the “average” student. The bigger percentage of students either attend a 2-year institution, attend part time, or are older than 25 years of age. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, total enrollment has increased from 2000 to 2015 and the number of older, non-traditional students is greatly contributing to that upward trend. Currently, 40% of post-secondary enrollment comes from students who are 25 and older.

So why are more adults deciding to go back to school?

Affordability

College is expensive and it’s no wonder more and more people push off the decision to attend until they can actually afford to go. In addition, many individuals are not sure about their studies and feel that attending school just to figure it out after a year or two would be a waste of tuition. Attending college when you are more financially stable releases the burden of financing the whole cost to attend.

To help make college more affordable to the workforce more and more businesses are adding tuition and educational assistance to their benefit programs. A new study from EdAssist®, confirms that tuition assistance not only help increase employee engagement, satisfaction and loyalty, but more importantly support personal career goals and provide individuals the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder.

Finish What Was Started

Many individuals find themselves re-enrolling in college years after not completing their degrees. Whether it was affordability or the level of maturity at the time, more and more of these individuals are completing their degrees. These students may be transferring to a 4-year school after completing some credits or they simply choose to complete their degree in order to increase their demand in the job market.

Unexpected Retirement

Many retirees find themselves out of the workforce earlier than what they expected due to unfortunate or unexpected life events. A recent study by Voya Financial, found 60% of Americans retired earlier than what they had planned on. Older students such as these may find themselves going back to school to sharpen or acquire new skills, often in a different field of study to launch a second career.

Flexibility of Online Education

The convenience of online education has made it easier than ever for working adults to earn a degree. Whether the student is a single parent or working full time, online learning provides the needed flexibility to plan around other life priorities. Often times, earning an online degree is much more affordable with little associated costs attached such as paying for textbooks and the cost to commute to campus.

Competitive Edge

With today’s rapidly changing industries, having up-to-date skills is necessary for climbing the corporate ladder. If employees are not continually assessing their current skill set, older employees run the risk of competing with younger generations for the same job opportunities. Many working professionals choose to further their education to acquire more expertise needed to grow within their career.


In conclusion, the reason behind the number of adults earning college degrees is increasing due to affordability, unexpected retirement, the growth of online learning, as well as career advancement. Whether you are an individual who falls into any of these categories or a corporation who wants to provide their employees with better career advancement opportunities, College Gateway for America offers practical and affordable pathways for the Adult or “non-traditional” student to earn a college degree. Contact us at 877-611-3030 to learn more about our available programs.