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A Critical Review of Research on Adult Education in Higher Education in the U.S. – Current Trends and Issues

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More recent decades have seen a third form of higher education institution develop and grow in the United States, the for-profit college

These institutions, which are organized as profit-making enterprises (either publicly held, through broad ownership of stock, or privately through more closely held ownership), have shown the fastest enrollment growth over the last three decades.

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Another significant subtheme in this domain was the broad area of"adaptation" between the adult student and the undergraduate collegiate context. This subtheme was somewhat broad in scope, reflecting research which considered satisfaction, persistence, and influencers of performance and attrition. This grouping of studies, when examined as a whole, does not suggest generalizable characteristics or relationships concerning adaptation of adult students. Often contradictory findings were presented across these studies due to the use of specific subs,ample groupings, the nature of defined variables or instrumentation, and the specific period of research investigation

However, these studies do reflect formative efforts to design and conduct research on the relationship between adult students and undergraduate environments. These efforts reflected a much broader base of early discussions premised upon observational, self-reported belief or institutional research studies.

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The value of a postsecondary credential for futureemployment and earnings is expected to rise

For example, the three job categories projected by the Bureau ofLabor Statistics to be among the 10 fastest-growingthrough 2014 (as measured by total number of new andvacant positions) and pay a median annual salary over$29,000 (approximately the federal lower living standardincome level for a family of four) all require postsec-ondary credentials (Hecker 2005). Similarly, 15 of the 20occupations predicted to grow the fastest (in terms of per-centage growth in new and vacant positions) require someform of postsecondary education, while nine require aBachelor’s degree or better. All 20 jobs expected to sufferthe greatest decline in openings by 2014 require only on-the-job training (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2005).

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To conclude, the ability to find a betterjob is one of the primary motivators for students who enroll in adult education.Furthermore, developing a qualified workforce is also important to states and localemployers

For that reason, a considerable number of institutions offering adulteducation work to connect their program to specific employment aims.

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Hecker, Daniel. 2005. “Occupational EmploymentProjections to 2014.” Monthly Labor Review Online.Bureau of Labor Statistics. 128(11):70-101.

Hersh, Richard H. 2005. “What Does College Teach?”Atlantic Monthly.

Laura. 1996. Nontraditional Undergraduates,Trends in Enrollment From 1986 to 1992 and Persistenceand Attainment Among 1989–90 Beginning PostsecondaryStudents. NCES 97–578.

Washington, DC: GovernmentPrinting Office.Institute for Higher Education Policy. 1996. Life AfterForty: A New Portrait of Today’s—and Tomorrow’s—Postsecondary Students.

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