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Points of Interest

Recessions Bring Older Students

This Points of Interest shows that history suggests older students, who will be coming to college when the recession wanes, will benefit at institutions that have implemented reforms.
July 22, 2020
Christopher M. Mullin
Tags: Accurate Placement, 2. Enroll in college-level math and English., Transfer and Course Applicability

This chart illustrates how recessions have historically changed the make-up of the study body across age groups. One observation to recognize - the student body is getting younger. One reason among many is that students over the age of 30 tend to exhibit a short-term bump in enrollment after a recession, only to return to historic levels. For example, in 2011 more than 3.8 million students over 30 were enrolled, a number that decreased to 2.7 million students within six years.

This information, coupled with increases in developmental course-taking for first-year students over age 30, suggest that there may likely be a spike in enrollment of adult students in fall 2021 who have traditionally been placed in developmental education but who haven’t benefitted by it. Luckily changes in policy and practice benefit adult students. In Tennessee, for example, corequisite math produces five times the success rate over the traditional model for adults. This Points of Interest shows that history suggests older students, who will be coming to college when the recessions wanes, will benefit at institutions that have implemented reforms.