Research on Prospective Adult Students

February 21, 2020

Prospective adult college students with greater access to postsecondary capital (defined as an accumulation of economic capacity, personal confidence and academic confidence) tend to seek more advanced postsecondary credentials, which lead to greater career advancement. Their peers who lack sufficient access to postsecondary capital, however, may retreat from new credential attainment or gravitate toward shorter, transactional and skills-based programs.

Those were among the key findings in the Eduventures 2020 Adult Prospect Research Report, which was published this week by NRCCUA, a data science and research organization that is a subsidiary of ACT, the testing firm.

The report, which drew from data collected in a 2019 survey, found that 83 percent of prospective adult learners are best described as being hesitant or skeptical about the value of a postsecondary credential, as well as about the ability to earn one. In addition, degrees are the credential of choice for most prospective adult students, the report found. And prospects with some previous postsecondary attainment show greater enthusiasm for returning to college.

"Schools seeking to enroll and support adult learners need to meet these prospects where they are, and this can be facilitated by a more precise understanding of their prior educational experiences and credential attainments," said Howard Lurie, Eduventures principal analyst and the report's author. "The concept of postsecondary capital can serve as a lens to further explore the relationship between these prior experiences and the why and how of whether adults will continue or complete their education."

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