Critical to state education and economic goals, adult learners will represent a majority of college students in the near future, yet they are largely an untapped resource. States and higher education institutions must adequately address their unique needs, concerns and expectations with comprehensive, proactive and targeted strategies that reflect this new reality.

CSG Midwest
A new initiative in Indiana is looking beyond the state’s K-12 population as a means to increase the percentage of Hoosiers with education beyond high school. The goal of the “You Can. Go Back.” program is to encourage the 750,000 Indiana adults who completed some college, but left before earning a degree, to come back and finish what they started. Through a mix of strategic marketing and financial aid, the campaign hopes to attract 200,000 adults back to college by 2020, and help them complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, or a workforce credential.
“You Can. Go Back.” is administered by the Indiana Commission of Higher Education in partnership with the state’s public university system, but has also gained the support of nearly two dozen private institutions and a variety of businesses.

College and university freshmen aren't what they once used to be, and state policymakers need to look at ways to adapt to that changing reality. "Yesterday's nontraditional student really is today's traditional student," said Marcie Foster, policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a national nonprofit that advocates for policies that improve the lives of low-income people. Foster was one of the featured speakers in a recent CSG webinar, "Overcoming Social Barriers to Postsecondary Education."

Enrollment in online courses has increased substantially over the past decade.  Online, educational offerings are flexible and allow students to develop the skills they need to be competitive in the job market even if they cannot regularly attend class and/or are located remotely.  The current, complex regulatory environment in the states inhibits many institutions from delivering these courses across state lines.  CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts, in conjunction with the Presidents’ Forum and with support from the Lumina Foundation, is developing an interstate compact to allow greater reciprocity in online education among the states.

Some may think it’s a gamble, but so far it’s paid off. The new Arkansas Scholarship Lottery is funding college scholarships by the thousands, more than the state was ever able to afford without it. As the recession continues, record numbers of students just out of high school and nontraditional, adult students took the state up on its offer of free tuition and fees. The state received 53,000 applications this year for the college scholarships, compared to 7,000 in 2009.

On May 21, at the CSG 2010 Economic Summit of the States, Jim Applegate, Senior Vice President for Program Development, Lumina Foundation for Education, made a presentation on how higher educational institutions are proving to be a vital part of economic development.

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