More adult students? Please, no

Don’t encourage more adults to enroll in college classes, unless they’re prepared to earn a degree, a college professor writes. Graduation rates are very low for adult students.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Imitating for-profit colleges, a California community college has created a fast-track degree program for people with full-time jobs. Students will take classes one night a week, Saturdays and online.

About Joanne


  1. Well, it would be a good thing if we could get more students who acted like adults, instead of fifth- or sixth-year high school kids…

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Interesting. I have a relation who, at age forty-something, is doing just this. Embarrassing the youngsters by actually studying. Topping the curve

  3. Banjo Pickin Girl says:

    Richard, I was a returning student at age 29. Doubled majored in chemistry and biology, graduated summa with honors in chemistry, etc. etc. Yawn. That kind of outperforming was par for the course at my school which had a lot of returning students (a state college in Mass.). Adults know how to commit to the study time and be more efficient and also they know what they don’t know.

    And I actually have a career in the field in which I studied! That also is par for the course for my returning student friends.

    Could all this be because my school was geared to returning students and even had an office to help out? And the profs actually made it harder for us, they made it harder to double major too. So this wasn’t easy.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Perhaps the profs lament the high rate of dropouts among youngsters. My relation said that after the midterm in his first class, almost half the class, all recent HS grads, stopped showing up. If people like him and you make it too tough for the kids, they’ll quit and there goes the money.
    OTOH, my wife once taught at a biz college where some of the kids were there as a condition of receiving assistance of one kind or another. They might be in classes, but their performance was poor (actually have to do stuff to qualify for money for not doing stuff?)and the graduation rate was pretty small. Maybe that’s what the profs are thinking.

  5. banjo pickin girl says:

    Yes, Richard, I believe you are right. My college was “weird” in having so much support for both returning students and those who were the first person in their family to go to college (I was a third generation college student and knew what to expect, both of my parents were grads).

    There also I think is a difference between two year and four year colleges with their attendant differences in economics, etc.

    My nickname WAS “Curve Raiser.” Though many of my profs didn’t grade on a curve in the hard sciences, it only made a difference in the core curriculum courses and cognates, some of which were graded on a curve.

    PS I loved being a curve raiser, talk about self-esteem, I tried to hard not to be superior acting. I had some great profs who loved to use insult humor with me, that helped a lot.

  6. I went to the grocery store today for a few items. None of the store clerks insisted that I buy enough ingredients for a four-course dinner.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    Not being particularly good at metaphor, I’m not sure where you’re going with this. However, I can say that if we had the necessary government programs, this shocking lapse at grocery stores can be overcome.

  8. In the bad old days of the Evil Empire, the Soviet government kept some unpopular magazines alive by bundling subscriptions with popular magazines: You want _Popular Mechanics__ ? You have to take __The Nation__ too. For a while, the US government keept the US Postal Service alive with a legally-mandated monopoly on the delivery of First Class mail, the revenues from which the Postal Service applied to its parcel delivery operation (e-mail has doomed this tactic and Congress is back to direct subsidies, I expect). Some US States allow homeschoolers to enroll part-time in high school for classes which their parents (suppose that they) cannot teach, like Chemistry and French.

    The post-secondary core curriculum is an employment program for government employees, who will oppose un-bundling of courses from enrollment or credentialization.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    I will admit that did not immediately spring to mind.

  10. after I went back to school in 2002 (which would have been in my mid 30’s), I wound up ruining the grade curve in just about every class I took, due to the fact that most of the students in their 20’s didn’t have a clue as to how to study, take notes, or simply pay attention in class.

    I had a professor that a week before the exam, she would tell the students everything you need to know to do well on the exam is on my website (materials to read, potential test questions, etc)…when the exam scores were handed out, the persons my age (or older) routinely got the highest marks.

    One exam we were told no calculators (not a problem for me), students just moaned and groaned…the math was basic statistics (stuff I learned in high school back in the late 70’s), welp, the exam is given…the class raw score was 69%…I scored 95, along with 3 others older than me, and one 20 year old EE major.

    The professor was appalled, but in reality, most of the students in that class never LEARNED how to do math the old fashioned way, with pencil and paper, along with memorization of basic math facts.

    Also, college is becoming more like grades 13 and 14 now, I’m sorry to say…

  11. Also, being a ‘curve raiser’ or ‘curve wrecker’ doesn’t prove you’re smarter than the students, it’s probably that you were taught differently when you attended high school compared to them.

    I know I can see a huge difference when a professor puts a problem on the board and I blurt out the answer (students look at me like ‘what planet is this guy from’), but then again, calculators were just becoming affordable towards the end of my high school career, so I learned how to do math with pencil, paper, slide rule, and logarithm tables.

  12. Richard Aubrey says:

    Bill. You might be smarter than the youngsters if you are smart enough to study.
    Just sayin’.

  13. It’s actually more than that, from what I’ve seen, many students admitted to college directly from high school lack the necessary skills to succeed in college, given that 30-40 percent of students need one or more remedial courses just to get up to speed. In addition, lack of time management and study skills also appears to be a large factor in success or failure.

  14. Richard Aubrey says:

    That’s true. But maybe in some circumstances you don’t want to mention it.