Recession Has Changed Views Among Prospective Adult Students, Study Finds
Nearly half of adult students believe the value of education has increased over the last year due to the economic crisis, according to a survey released this week by Eduventures Inc., an education-consulting firm.
Twenty-five percent of respondents said the value had not changed significantly. And only 20 percent said the value of additional education had decreased, meaning that they believed it was less likely to earn them a raise or better job.
At the same time, the survey found that the economy had affected the plans of prospective adult students in different ways. Thirty-six percent of respondents said the economy had caused them to "slow down or delay" plans to pursue education, while 31 percent said the economy had had little or no effect. Meanwhile, 18 percent said the economy had prompted them to think about furthering their education although it had not previously been a priority, and 12 percent said the economy had led them to pursue educational goals sooner than they had planned.
"It's a complex fabric of things," said Sean Gallagher, a program director and senior analyst at Eduventures. "The foundation for all the assumptions about enrollment indicators has really been disrupted by the economy."
Speed, Flexibility, and Career Focus
The survey reflected those disruptions. Many prospective adult students said they were more likely than before to pursue a course or program with more flexible scheduling (59 percent); to complete a course or degree quickly (52 percent); to enroll in a course with a career focus (47 percent); or to enroll in an online course or program (42 percent).
More prospective adult learners would also focus more than before on cost and financial assistance, the survey found. Sixty-one percent said they were more likely to look for a scholarship, and 59 percent said they were more likely to enroll in a less-expensive course or program. Respondents were divided on the subject of taking on debt: Thirty-one percent said they were more likely to take out a student loan, while 29 percent said they were less likely to do so.
Finally, many students said they were worried about their ability to continue their education once they started, a concern that could influence their enrollment decisions. Forty-three percent said they were worried that they would have to drop out if they lost their jobs, and 37 percent were concerned about the time away from their job that pursuing an education would require.
"Consumer confidence is really the key thing here," Mr. Gallagher said. "There are some real potential changes in students' behavior that could impact enrollments and the viability of programs at certain institutions."
The survey was of 1,500 adults who had indicated that they planned to enroll in a course or program within the next two years. Eighty-three percent of the respondents were employed at the time of the survey, which was conducted in February. The average age of the respondents was 38.