Whether it’s to gain new skills or set their careers in a different direction, adults head back to college first.

Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.“ Since learning is supposed to be a lifelong process, it may be why many adults head back to college.

We know life teaches us lessons every day. Yet more and more adults are supplementing that knowledge by returning to college campuses to continue their formal education. In 2014, there were approximately 12 million college students under age 24, with 8.2 million 25 years and older.1

While “traditional” college students still make up the majority on campus, there’s a definite shift in the post-secondary demographics across the country.

National Center for Educational Statistics reports students in the 25 – 34 age group has grown 52% from 1998 to 2012. It is projected to grow another 23% by 2023. Yes, it’s undeniably a movement – adult learners are headed back to school.

Group of Adult Students gathered around a table working on a project.

Why Do Adults Return to School?

If you’re thinking about heading back to earn some extra credit, you can rest a little easier. You certainly won’t be alone and we’re betting the reasons you’re swapping your business card for a student ID might be the same, too. Here are some of the more popular reasons adults head back to college:

  1. To advance your career. Earning a degree may open the door to other opportunities and give you a competitive advantage. An Associate’s, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree coupled with work experience could make you an even stronger candidate for a promotion.
  2. To acquire more skills. Be honest. Are your skills or knowledge a little outdated? A few classes might breathe some new life into your current position. It also demonstrates your willingness to learn new things and keep up with current trends.
  3. To start a second career. Are you at a point in your life where you might want to consider a second or new career? Maybe you’re an empty nester who wants to rejoin the workforce or you’re stuck in an unfulfilling job. Whatever the case, choose something you love and go learn about it – and then get paid for it!
  4. It’s more affordable now. College costs are astronomical and not everyone can afford to continue their education right out of high school. Maybe you’ve been saving your money and now is the time to start your college career.
  5. Time to finish that degree. You may have taken a few classes and then life took you in a different direction. You’ve worked your way back to the college campus, and it’s time to finish those final few credits.

A group of adult students are working on an electrical project in their lab. They are wiring part of their mechanical engineering task.

Funding Your Education

Whatever your reason, heading back to school is an exciting time – and yes, challenging, too. Financing your new adventure is one of the first bridges you’ll have to cross.

Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for employees who successfully complete courses that are beneficial to their position. If you’re unemployed but looking to gain extra education, check out some of these government sponsored grants and funding opportunities. Financial aid is also a viable option. Many think that adult learners fall outside of the age requirement to receive aid, but in fact, there is no age limit and everyone is eligible.

Finally, talk with your tax advisor about the tax benefits for adult learners. You may qualify for U.S. income tax credits, depending on your income.

Just Do It!

Yes, it’s a big step. But when you see how all the pieces fit together, you’ll see it was worth the effort.

1Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Facts, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372