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ALPS- Context- Statement

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					THE ROLE OF ADULT LEARNER PROGRAMS AND SERVICES CAS Standards Contextual Statement

Adult learners constitute approximately 45 percent of enrolled college students. Rather than being evenly enrolled throughout higher education, adults are much more likely to be enrolled in community colleges and in institutions designed specifically for them than in major research universities and state universities. Further, in institutions whose admissions criteria and practices are highly tailored to traditional-age applicants, adult learners may be disproportionately represented in the non-degree seeking and provisionally admitted ranks of students. Although institutional definitions of an adult learner vary, they often include age 24 and older, veteran’s status, a hiatus in learning, and the performance of multiple adult roles regardless of age. Included within the ranks of adult learners are full- and part-time employees, recently discharged veterans, unemployed workers, single parents, career changers, and retirees. They may live on campus, in local communities, commute some distance, or study at a distance. They turn to higher education for many reasons such as earning degrees, certificates, or other credentials; taking courses for work-enhancement purposes; positioning themselves for new opportunities in order to increase earning power; and for enrichment. Despite the diversity of the adult learner and their motivations for enrollment, they seek from higher education an understanding of both their needs and their attributes. They also seek an institution that has a desire to be responsive and interested in enrolling them. It is also critical that higher education institutions offer adults the academic programs they want when they are available to take them. Given higher education’s long-standing focus on traditional-age and residential students, adult learners often have been seen as the purview of ancillary units such as continuing and distance education units in land grant universities and evening and weekend colleges in urban universities, and of community colleges, which are relative newcomers to the higher education landscape. Faculty in student personnel preparation programs have conducted much of their research on and written about the young, residential students who have been easier to access than adult learners. As a consequence, new professionals may think of college student development solely from the perspective of 17- to 23-year olds. When the numbers of traditional-age high school graduates have fallen periodically, some institutions including private colleges have changed their practices and policies to serve the adult learner more effectively. In the meantime, the dislocation of the nation’s manufacturing economy has called for the re-education of hundreds of furloughed workers. The knowledge economy has called for adults with high school diplomas, some college, or associate degrees to earn bachelors and advanced degrees. Divorce, separation, and the death of a spouse have triggered a return to learning by many eager to increase their earning power to improve not only their own standard of living and that of their children. Longer life spans have caused persons to turn to higher education for second careers and for intellectual

stimulation in their retirement. As these social and economic changes have occurred, adults have sought access to and responsiveness from colleges, academic departments, and support services beyond the units that had served them previously. As adults encountered and began to complain about difficulties with gaining admission to “mainstream” academic programs and access to financial aid, with faculty unwilling to consider awarding credit for prior college-level learning, and with a college environment that they sometimes characterized as lonely, if not hostile, Adult Learner Programs and Services (ALPS) units began to appear. Other ALPS units were created because college and university faculty and staff realized the social and economic trends as well as the attributes that adult learners brought to higher education and wanted to increase their enrollment; or they learned that adult graduation rates were less than the overall institution’s graduation rate and wanted to increase adult learner success. Many factors, including institutional type, structure, and history as well as the rationale for founding Adult Learner Programs and Services units, have influenced the placement of ALPS in the institutional structure, the mission of ALPS, and the activities and expertise of ALPS staff. For example, ALPS units have been placed in student affairs, continuing and distance education, affirmative action, and academic support divisions. In turn, the ALPS mission may focus more on student access, on supporting enrolled student success, and on select populations of adult learners or the focus may be more comprehensive. The CAS standards and guidelines provide a basis for institutional self-assessment and program development as institutional leaders seek to respond to projected increases in the number and diversity of adult learners and as they seek to provide a standard of program and service excellence to those whom they currently recruit and enroll.

References, Readings, and Resources Adult learners in higher education: Barriers to success and strategies to improve results. (March 2007). Report prepared for the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Policy Development and Research by Jobs for the Future. http://www.doleta.gov/reports/searcheta/occ/ Aslanian, C. B. (2001). Adult students today. New York: The College Board. Aslanian, C. B., & Brickell, H. M. (1988). How Americans in transition study for college credit. New York: The College Board. Aslanian, C. B., & Brickell, H. M. (1980). Americans in transition: Life changes as reasons for adult learning. New York: The College Entrance Examination Board. Bash, L. (2003). Adult learners: Why they are important to the 21st century college or university. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 51 (3), 18-26.

Harrison, C. H. (May 2000). The adult learner: Not a student yet. A thesis in Adult Education, Penn State University. Kasworm, C. (2003). What is collegiate involvement for adult undergraduates? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 481 228). Kasworm, C. E., & Blowers, S. S. (1994). Adult undergraduate students: Patterns of learning involvement. Final Research Report, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 376 321). Kasworm, C. E., Polson, C. J., & Fishback, S. J. (2002). Responding to adult learners in higher education. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company. Kilgore, D., & Rice, P. J. (2003). New directions for student services: Meeting the special needs of adult students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Pusser, B., Breneman, D. W., Gansneder, B. M., Kohl, K. J., Levin, J. S., Milam, J. H., & Turner, S. E. (March 2007). Returning to learning: Adults’ success in college is key to America’s future. Report of the Lumina Foundation for Education, Indianapolis, IN. Schlossberg, N. K., Lynch, A. Q., & Chickering, A. W. (1989). Improving higher education environments for adults. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers. Sissel, P. A., Hansman, C. A., & Kasworm, C. E. (2001). The politics of neglect: Adult learners in higher education. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 91, 17-27. Contributor: Charlene H. Harrison, D.Ed., Penn State University


				
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