Giving Compass' Take:

· According to The Hechinger Report, college enrollment among older adults has increased dramatically, but there are many limitations that skew the numbers when collecting federal data.

· How can institutions of higher education better support their adult students? 

· Learn how to help adult students graduate.

More than 19 million undergraduate students are enrolled in colleges and universities for fall 2018, according to a report this week from the National Center for Education Statistics, and many of them are adults aged 25 and older.

NCES says this older student population peaked in 2010 at 8.9 million and has declined since then. But higher education experts and other federal data tell a different story. The number of older adult learners is rising, some say, and higher education institutions should do more to support them.

R. Lee Viar IV, president of the Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education, says there’s been a steady growth of college students who are 24 and older but data can be convoluted and interpreted in many ways.

“I liken it to the unemployment report,” said Viar. If job seekers aren’t reporting that they’re actively looking for a job, “then they’re off the job rolls,” he said. “The same is true for the adult learners.”

In other words, if older students take a year-long break from their classes, they won’t be counted in enrollment figures per se, but they may very well still be pursuing their educations.

Read the full article about college enrollment among older adults by Delece Smith-Barrow at The Hechinger Report.