Inherent biases within institutions, despite all good intentions, play a significant role in shaping budget planning and strategic decisions aimed at re-engaging adult students. Here are some common myths and the realities behind them:

Myth #1: Adult students are only interested in online learning.

Reality: While online options are attractive due to flexibility, many adult students value classroom interaction and building peer relationships. They may seek hybrid formats or opportunities for in-person discussions and group work.

Myth #2: Adult students prefer independent learning and minimal support.

Reality: Adult learners often lack confidence in academic skills or navigating new systems. Although they may enter an institution believing that they have everything under control, they often realize that they need a variety of academic support services, from study skills workshops to writing resources and personalized advising.

Myth #3: Adult students primarily need career advancement and practical skills.

Reality: While career goals are important, adult learners also have diverse motivations for pursuing degrees later in life. They may seek intellectual stimulation, personal growth, or a change in direction. Universities should offer a range of academic programs and opportunities beyond strictly vocational training.

Myth #4: Adult students are tech-savvy and comfortable with online tools.

Reality: Technology access and digital literacy vary greatly among adult learners. Some may require training on online platforms, communication tools, and research resources to fully participate in digital learning environments. This is often an added burden for institutions typically more comfortable serving traditional age students.

Myth #5: Adult students are financially independent and don’t need aid.

Reality: Many adult learners juggle work, family commitments, and educational expenses. They may require flexible payment plans, scholarships specifically for adult students, and guidance on navigating financial aid options.

By debunking these myths and understanding the diverse needs and realities of adult learners, universities can create a more supportive learning environment, fostering their success and enriching their academic experience.  Supportive environments lead to strengthened metrics for retention and degree completion.    

Written by: Dr. Sarah Steinberg