According to EAB, a research firm in the education sector, 38 percent of undergraduates are considered adult learners—i.e. older than 25. This number of adult undergraduates is projected to grow 21 percent by 2022. Adults going back to college to add to their existing degrees or finish degrees they once started is becoming increasingly common. With flexible coursework opportunities, including online education, and new technologies that many adult learners want to learn, the opportunities are endless.
But what is sparking this trend? Why are so many adults going back to school at 40, 50, and beyond? While everyone will have his or her own reasons for wanting to go back to school, there are some that seem to be common, including these seven.
Increase Your Earning Potential
Everyone wants to earn more money, right? Well, adults going back to school can increase their earning potential substantially. Many people find they can move beyond their current positions into managerial positions or other roles of leadership with additional training, and that type of move usually comes with additional income. Going back to school at 40 or even 50 makes sense if it opens the door to a greater number of financial opportunities.
Start a New Career Path
Many adults find that, after a decade of two in their current line of work, they just don’t love it anymore, if they ever did. They may find that their passions lie elsewhere, but they need additional training to launch their new career choice. Going back to school can open the door to new career paths.
Perhaps you aren’t unhappy in your current line of work, but you’ve learned about a new opportunity with greater potential. Again, many adults going back to college are doing so to open these new career paths, so feel free to jump on board if you see an opportunity you wish to pursue.
Your Income Has Grown
Student loan debt is a problem for most of the population. Forbes estimates the total amount of student loan debt in the United States is over $1.5 trillion with an average of $28,650 per borrower in 2019. Maybe you didn’t finish or start your college degree because of fears of adding to your debt load. Now that you have started working and your income has increased, you may have the resources to return to school and complete your education without student loans.
You Didn’t Go to School When You Were Younger
Not everyone graduates from high school and immediately heads to college. Sometimes older learners are not adults returning to college, but rather adults starting college for the first time. There is no shame in starting your degree in your 30s or 40s, because life and life’s circumstances change. If you have the opportunity now to pursue what you couldn’t in your 20s, go ahead and pursue it.
You Need to Finish Your Degree
Though college completion rates are up, as many as six out of 10 students who start a college degree program will not have their degree in hand within six years, according to NPR. Some find the financial burden too high, while others end up starting families and getting caught up in the demands of early parenting. If you are among the millions who start college and never finish, then you may have the opportunity to complete your training now.
Your Skill Set Needs Updating
Maybe you have found that your current skill set is no longer sufficient for the needs of your job. This often happens when technology changes. Shifting to new technology can make it difficult for you to complete your work as you once did. Adults going back to school could learn new skills that can translate into better work opportunities. In addition, going back to school after seeing where your career path is taking you provides the opportunity to learn the specific skills you know you will need, rather than generic skills that may or may not apply to your line of work.
You’re Thinking of Becoming an Entrepreneur
After many years of working in your business, perhaps you have discovered that you truly love it and want to branch out on your own. Starting your own business can be rewarding and lucrative, but do you know what it takes to run a successful company?
Being skilled in what you do is an important part of launching your own business, but you’ll also need to understand the ins and outs of running a successful business. Sometimes, adults going back to college are doing so to gain the business training they need to start. With classes in business leadership, management or the nuts and bolts of how to launch a company, you’ll learn what it takes to put your existing skills to work in a successful and growing business.
You’ve already gained the skills in your career field, but now it’s time to gain the business skills you need to put them to work.
Adults going back to college have several reasons for pursuing their degrees. From gaining skills and business knowledge to increasing your earning potential and finally completing that neglected degree program, your reasons are highly personal. With the many online and hybrid education opportunities out there, adults now have more options than ever before to make their degrees possible.
If you’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school, now is an excellent time to invest in your education.