Policymakers can allocate funding for wraparound support services to accommodate educational success for working adult learners.
Working adult learners have different needs than traditional-aged students, and institutions can accommodate these learners by offering flexible, dynamic, and diverse services. Because working adult learners often manage multiple competing priorities, education and training programs must provide flexibility in accommodating students’ schedules and family obligations while maximizing prior learning and providing a potentially shortened time to a degree at a lower cost.
Working adult learners are often caretakers and full- or part-time employees. They are also frequently unfamiliar with academic settings after pausing their studies. Because of these additional life circumstances, policymakers can advocate for wraparound support services that address academic and nonacademic needs, which can be extremely valuable for working adult learners.
For example, a parent working minimum wage would need to work about 52 hours per week to afford both childcare and tuition at a four-year public institution. This is an untenable workload; working adult learners say the main reason they have some college but no degree is that they could not balance the demands of both work and school. State policies that support caretakers with financial aid beyond tuition can help alleviate the many demands on their time.
Working adult learners from diverse communities can also benefit from one-on-one support services. Because white learners are 2.5 times more likely to graduate from a public college than Black learners and 60% more likely than Latino learners, policies designed to support the whole learner inside and outside their academic studies are essential in closing educational achievement gaps.