Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Higher education institutions across the country have been challenged to rethink what education now requires for the adult learner. Evolutionary changes have occurred in technology, medicine, and many other economic and social aspects of life, and education is no different. What was once considered a traditional track in higher education no longer pertains to most of adult learners. Adult students want programs that are in demand and yield jobs with good salaries. Adult learners think convenience is crucial: location, affordable, fits schedule, easy to start and quality were noted essential in the Noel Levitz survey conducted in the spring of 1999.

Accelerated and alternative learning options for adults have become a growing need in higher education. As indicated in Hazel Rinehart's November 1997 research projection summery "Adult education, despite slight downturn in prime age cells (25-45), should be a growth market because of the need for diversified and enhanced workplace skills. Options like certificates, course clusters, and alternatives to degrees will gain popularity."

As stated in the book Adult Students Today "Most colleges (75 percent) report increases in students over age 25 during the last decade; among institutions reporting increases in overall enrollment, about 60 percent point to adult students" (Aslanian, 2001 ). Higher education has known about this paradigm shift for some time, but many colleges continue to struggle with the validity and concept of accelerated and/or alternative learning options for students. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (1994) indicate that 38.4 percent of all college students in 1991 were 25 years of age or older. At two-year institutions, 31 percent of fall 1991 enrollments were made up of students who reported their age as 30 or older (Phillippe, 1995). We most likely will see an increase in the percentage of older students returning to school in the future, and this impact will be a direct reflection of the increased numbers of displaced workers, employers requiring an advanced degree to fill vacant positions, and validation of existing positions to maintain employment.

The purpose of this thesis is to show the growing demand and student need for accelerated and/or alternative learning options for the adult population in all academic arenas (2-year, bachelor's, and masters) and validate this concept through a series of supportive documentation, interviews and surveys.


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