Many adult learners or learners with some college and no credentials simply don’t feel like higher education is for them,” says Terah Crews, a now-CEO who left high school early and entered college in her later adult years.

There is no such thing as too late, too old or too far behind when it comes to education. An estimated 60% of adults have considered returning to school — despite a few anticipated financial hurdles.

Whether you’re a university student who’s taken some time away from school, an employee seeking a career change or someone who’s doing research on the best learning options before taking the leap — you’re far from being the only one.

I understand what it’s like to be the only person over 22 in a classroom,” Crews says.

In a clear statement against the value of traditional higher education, Americans are actively choosing careers over continued education. The majority of available resources — the tools that would typically equip students in their pursuit of secondary learning — are still predominantly tailored for a younger audience. 

This lack of proper resources not only deters countless adults from returning to an academic environment; it often causes those who do return to experience some sort of disadvantage. Others feel underprepared or out of touch with the modern learning experience.

Why do adults return to academia?

“Adult learners” are defined as people older than 25 who have resumed the role of a student.

There are many reasons why adult learners — students over the age of 25 who have resumed a student role — choose to pursue further education.

Adults might return to academia for some of the following reasons:

  • Wanting to maintain an “edge” in the workplace
  • Intending to advance their career or salary
  • Desiring to finish a degree they began at a younger age
  • Seeking new skills, qualifications and training
  • Pursuing personal growth and development opportunities
  • Transitioning to a new career path

The reasons for adults returning to the academic environment are diverse, as are the learning options they have to choose from.

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What are the best learning options for adult learners?

Returning to an academic environment doesn’t always mean going back to college. Today, only 51% of learners — at any age — see college as a necessity. For many adults, physically attending classes isn’t practical or feasible due to work, family and other priorities.

Adult learners seeking education need learning options that are flexible, consistent and affordable. A college degree no longer fits that mold.

In the wake of declining college enrollment among adult learners, bootcamps and apprenticeship learning programs have become an increasingly popular option.

Adult learners pursuing foundational education in a particular topic will begin with a bootcamp — a virtual study program that teaches in-demand tech skills. Learners progress into an apprenticeship program after graduating from their bootcamp in a matter of weeks. The apprenticeship program serves as a bridge, further educating adult learners looking to apply newly-developed skills in a professional environment.

Some organizations also integrate their apprenticeship programs into a larger fellowship initiative.

Bootcamp providers help adults qualify for acceptance into their Tech Fellowship Programs, where students learn and earn as a fellow to an industry-leading employer. Students also receive continuing education for 3-12 months as a tech fellow, allowing them to stay on top of any emerging trends while deepening their careers.

When we start positioning the learner at the center of all these discussions, it becomes much easier to align the needs of a learner with the opportunities of an institution, creating an effectively seamless alignment around the ultimate goal: learner success,” says Crews.

At Pace, we understand what it takes to educate adult learners. We only partner with top-performing universities and employers, to help adult learners transition from the past into the future.

Our top-rated student success team is also here to provide support, from onboarding to financing as you embrace whatever’s next for your career.


Let us know when you’re ready to get started — or call 1-855-957-5522 for more information right now.