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Constance Iloh

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Adult Students in Higher Education Are Here to Stay

Is it easier to talk about institutions of higher learning than the students that attend them?

This seems to be the case especially as it pertains to adult students in higher education. There has been growing debate regarding the drivers of postsecondary innovation—for-profit colleges, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and other technologies. These “innovators” are often cited as the reasons for such changes. Notably missing from these conversations are adult students, who enroll in large numbers into such “innovation hubs.”

A new and timely ACE-commissioned report also asserts that the real disrupters of higher education are adult or students. While I appreciate their inclusion of adult learners and their important role in postsecondary innovation, perhaps it is still short-sighted that adult students are mainly discussed alongside innovation. Perhaps the bigger problem is that the current discourse often only sees such students as a trend, when even projections show their presence will continue to grow.  It is my hope that with more assertive research agendas the conversation will shift from temporary to those much more committed to the  established  presence and importance of adult students.

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