Post-Traditional Adult Students Key to Closing Colorado’s Skills Gap

At a time when Colorado is making significant efforts to close our state’s skills gap — that is, the gap between the number of jobs requiring postsecondary skills and the people with the education and training to fill them — helping “post-traditional” working-age adults succeed in postsecondary education is more important than ever.

In fact, working-age adults already represent a substantial, and fast-growing, share of all undergraduates nationwide and are a key part of a demographic shift that has important implications for how postsecondary education is structured and delivered. Here are some interesting facts illustrating this demographic shift that we’ve come across during our ongoing research on this important issue:

  • Only about 15 percent to 20 percent of undergraduate students nationwide are “traditional” – often defined as going to college directly after high school, enrolling full-time, and being financially dependent on their parents.
  • 40 percent of all undergraduates are 25 years or older.
  • The share of all students 25 years or older is expected to grow by another 22 percent by 2022 — more than twice as fast as for traditional-age students.
  • 26 percent of postsecondary students are parents.

Ensuring postsecondary access, affordability, and success for post-traditional adults remains a top priority for the Bell. We look forward to working closely with the Colorado Commission on Higher Education this year as they make this a strategic focus in their work.