Washington, D.C. – Just as the nation’s economy is demanding that more workers have some postsecondary education or training, the traditional source of such workers – high school graduates – is leveling off and even declining in some states. Nationally, the number of high school graduates is expected to remain flat between 2010 and 2020, and in Oregon, the projected number of high school graduates is expected to increase by just 0.4 percent from its 2010 level. Oregon is one of 39 states and the District of Columbia with less than 5 percent projected growth in the number high school graduates.
A new brief, Not Just Kid Stuff Anymore: The Economic Imperative for More Adults to Complete College, released by CLASP, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) demonstrates why, in light of this trend and the changing economy, ensuring more adults have access to and complete college is critical for the nation’s continuing economic competitiveness.
By 2018 the demand for college-educated workers will rise 16 percent, while demand for other workers will stay flat. At the same time, nearly two-thirds of jobs in 2018 will require some postsecondary education or training. In Oregon, between 2008 and 2018, labor demand will increase over 2.5 times as much for college-educated workers (123,000 additional jobs) as for high school graduates and dropouts (47,000 additional jobs). Both Oregon and the nation need more college-educated workers to fill demand for skilled workers. “The country’s economic competitiveness rests on more people accessing postsecondary education and credentials,” said Patrick Kelly, a senior associate at NCHEMS and coauthor of the report. “And with the aging of our population and decline in number of recent high school graduates entering college and the workforce, we need to make sure even more adults and nontraditional students have the skills they need to fill tomorrow’s jobs.”
“Our public policies have an important role to play by making postsecondary education more accessible for adult and nontraditional students, including by protecting funding for federal aid, especially Pell Grants, and improving policies to expand access and completion for an undergraduate population that looks much different today than 20 years ago,” said Vickie Choitz, a senior policy analyst at CLASP.
While research projects adult enrollment in college will grow twice as fast as enrollments by traditional age students, it’s important to note nontraditional students already are a significant percent of the college population: 36 percent of undergraduates are age 25 or older, 47 percent are considered “independent” from their parents , 23 percent of undergraduates are parents, and 40 percent are low-income. The changing student population has different needs from traditional students.
“It is critical that federal student aid be responsive to the needs of adults who often must juggle work, family and school responsibilities and who are on their own financially,” the report states.