NORAM - Ebook

American Universities and the Case for Lifelong Learning

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NEW HORIZONS: AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES AND THE CASE FOR LIFELONG LEARNING 18 Institutions of higher learning should indisputably continue to push to expand opportunities and support for students of color in traditional four-year programs, but they also need to meet minority students where they are— in often untraditional situations that preclude them spending four years at a residential college. Where universities have made strong commitments to adult education, they have also greatly expanded their service to underserved communities. Dooley of Purdue Global reported that 40% of its students are from underrepresented communities; similarly, with the expansion of Arizona State University's EdPlus program, which serves students across bachelor, associate and certificate tracks, ASU has been able to deliver access to education to a diverse population fully representative of the state of Arizona. In our interviews, experts told us that the single most effective thing that colleges and universities can do to help communities of color is to expand their services towards lifelong learning and adult education, and the experiences of 2020 support that very important notion. CONCLUSION The case for greater attention to be paid to adult learning has been clear for many years. The pandemic has accelerated trends and exposed even greater need for adult learning, specifically for effective reskilling efforts. The growth of programs to serve adult learners, and the greater confidence of adult learners in digital platforms, are generally positive developments. Positive outcomes, however, are limited by lack of transparency, programmatic measurement and portability of most certificate and credit programs. The greater involvement of four-year degree institutions in this area is not a panacea for these problems – they have their own challenges with measurement and portability to be sure – but the greater resources, teaching skills and program credibility could add considerable promise and purpose to this space. These factors, combined with greater attention from the new Congress and from business leaders, could help transform adult learning and advance the critical cause of improving opportunity for tens of millions of American adults. We hope that university leaders will similarly see this as an important mission and service opportunity for their institutions as well.

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