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Hendricks Adult Learners Conference presentation

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Esther Prins

on 9 September 2014

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Transcript of Hendricks Adult Learners Conference presentation

Higher Education Context in U.S. & PA
Characteristics of adult learners and GED recipients:
A rural-urban analysis of Pennsylvania postsecondary students

Study Overview
Focus: demographic, educational, & financial characteristics of undergraduate students who:

Applied for federal financial aid in 2010-11

Lived in PA

Were adult learners (age 24+) or GED graduates

Rural-urban differences
Adult Learners & GED Graduates
Adult learners: growing proportion of U.S. undergraduates

2011: 42% of undergraduates age 25+

2000-2010: adult enrollment +42% vs. +34% for younger students

17 million U.S. adults with GED (General Educational Development) diploma (2009)
Dr. Cathy Kassab
By the Numbers

Kimeka Campbell
Adult Education Program, PSU

Dr. Esther Prins
Adult Education Program, PSU

Known characteristics of GED graduates

Lower college enrollment & completion
17% enroll in college (age 18-29) vs. 34% HS diploma
5% have BA/BS (vs. 33% HS diploma)

2-year institutions

<4-year degree

Part-time study

High poverty rates: 44% (GED) vs. 17% (HS diploma)
Lower college enrollment & educational attainment in rural PA

enrollment (2004)
18-24 yrs.: 27% rural vs. 37% cities & suburbs

25-29 yrs.: 8% rural vs. 10-11% cities

25-64 yrs. with college degree: 1 in 5 rural vs. 1 in 3 urban (2006)
Growing interest in supporting “transitions to postsecondary education”

Post-recession analysis of student characteristics

First statewide analysis of all federal financial aid applicants, with focus on adults & GED graduates

Few studies provide rural-urban analysis
Why does this matter?
GED Graduates
Adult Learners
Increase in students' unmet financial need:
"One, because the cost has gone up. Two, in many instances, family income has declined. And in the face of that, we have not had a big increase, or any increase, in state funding for the grant program."

Increased adult learner enrollment at the 2-year & public 4-year institutions, not the 4-year private
lost job or unemployment benefits expired
Adults have different financial situations & enrollment patterns, so require different types of financial aid
Not financially dependent
Raising families
Take classes intermittently
Many aren't getting a 4-year or 2-year degree (certification, specialized training, professional development, retraining)
“A lot of them are in employment circumstances where there’s not the certainty of work six months from now, or even six weeks from now."
Adults’ financial situations shape degree completion:

"I find that the adult learners have more difficulty with…the ability to complete their degree, because of their…financial responsibilities outside of school. So if they come to school and they are full-time…they’re studying and…their academic performance is not affected, but their financial responsibilities for the home are not being able to be covered. They can’t meet their financial responsibilities outside of school, so it…deters them from completing in a timely fashion….They’ll stop and start. They’ll stop and start."

Woman took 20 years to complete BA/BS: “And it’s because she has three children…She has to work a regular job, and she stops and she starts, and she stops and she starts, and she stops and she starts.”

Highlights prevalent "stopout" pattern
Many adults ineligible for state grants: take too few classes, <2 year degree, study part-time

"Again, your people in the workforce are often just looking to improve their skills, so they take a course here or a course there. The students who are opting not to go from high school to full-time secondary ed are possibly again looking for job preparation training, where again it may not be a program of 2 years’ duration…. Actually, the Commonwealth has recognized this. They had asked us to initiate a new grant program this year called [Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program], which focuses exclusively on programs of study of less than 2 years, although we still maintain the enrollment intensity requirement." (at least half-time at non-profit and full-time at for-profit institutions)

"Now there is some [state] aid to part-time students, but it is still a limited piece of the [state] grant program….I would think that we probably have more part-time students, and we don’t necessarily have a student grant program that is responsive enough to that changing dynamic."
State online learning policies adversely affect adults
Ineligible for state grant if >50% classes online
PA = only state to maintain such restrictions
$10 million pilot program (2013-18) at selected institutions
BUT students must be enrolled at least half-time in program of 2+ years
excludes many adult learners & GED graduates
Findings challenge conventional image of college students

Need to re-calibrate image of who they are
Characteristics mirror the “risk index for non-persistence” in higher education (Reder, 2007)

Older age, part-time enrollment, financial independence, dependent children

Non-traditional students need targeted, multi-faceted support to complete degree (financial, social, academic)
GED graduates & adult learners were far more disadvantaged than peers

60-77% poverty rates (highest for urban GED & adult learners)

More likely to be dislocated worker

More likely to study part-time, attend non-4-year institution, pursue <2-year degree

Some college credits, but still in 1st year

Lower parental education (esp. rural)

Less likely to be single, more likely to have dependents (esp. rural)
Need to tailor financial aid to marginalized students
Change aid eligibility requirements
Expand aid for part-time study & short-duration programs

Understand & respond to rural-urban differences
E.g., lower rural educational attainment, higher urban financial need
Read the full report at the Center for Rural PA website: www.rural.palegislature.us (select "reports" under publications tab)

For more information, contact Esther Prins: esp150@psu.edu
Rising cost
+375% since 1980s (3x growth in median family income)

Out of reach for low-income families
6 of 12 most expensive U.S. public institutions for low-income students are in PA
Data sources

610,925 FAFSA applications


2 policy experts (Mark Lafer at PHEAA; Ron Cowell at Education Policy & Leadership Center)

financial aid administrators at 6 rural postsecondary institutions
Funding: Center for Rural Pennsylvania

In-kind support: Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy at PSU

FAFSA data: Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (Mark Lafer)
Adult postsecondary enrollment in PA

4% (age 25-49) vs. 9% in states with highest enrollment (NCPPHE, 2008)

1.5% (age 25+): 48th in U.S. (PA Business Council Education Foundation, 2014)

1 in 5 working-age adults (PA & U.S.) has some college credits but no credential: untapped audience
Rural PA adults have fewer--and more expensive--higher ed options

Community colleges concentrated in urban areas

Scarcity & expense of community colleges mostly affect adults & GED graduates “because community colleges represent the lowest priced as well as...lowest risk educational portals” (Education Policy Leadership Center, 2006, p. 29).
Full transcript