Colleges Across The Country Prepare For Older Adults Going Back To School For Second Careers
As the number of retired Americans looking for a second career grows, colleges across the country are preparing for older adults returning to school.
By 2030, the number of Americans 65 and older will grow to 72 million, up from 40.2 million in 2010, according to the United States Census Bureau. But these older adults aren't ready to sit at home and knit sweaters for their grandchildren - a Merrill Lynch study found that almost 3 of every five working retirees said retirement was an opportunity to shift to a different line of work.
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"Many see retirement as a chance to pursue career dreams that weren't feasible before retirement," said Cynthia Hutchins, director of financial gerontology at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, according to the New York Times.
Not everyone who retires does so voluntarily. A survey by PNC Financial Services found that more than half of retirees 70 or younger retired before they had originally intended. Forty percent retired due to health-related issues and 26 percent because of layoffs, forced early retirement, or other issues with their employers.
Involuntary retirement means many retirees need (or want) to keep working but find themselves decades behind the skillsets needed in today's workforce. Colleges and universities are preparing to tap into a market of older adults looking to start their second career.
"While many colleges have some kind of continuing education programs in place, what we're seeing is institutions are starting to truly embrace the seismic demographic shift as an opportunity, not just a sideline offering," said Barbara Vacarr, director of the higher education intitiative for Encore.org, a nonprofit group, told the Times.
The group organized a conference in March, hosting deans, provosts, and vice presidents from 22 institutions including Columbia University, Community College of Vermont, Cornell University, Tulane University, and U.C.L.A. The summit, held at New York University, provoked discussion on ways to create age-friendly institutions and build a network for older adults wanting courses to re-start their careers.
One of the bigger challenges is providing courses for those who lack the time or financial resources for long-winded, degree-based programs. According to the Times, one idea was to give credits to older students for work and life experience to lower the number of classes needed for a degree.
For example, Tulane University's Alumni Career Services is creating a program for alumni wanting to start a second career.
"We found that our alums are interested in doing an encore and having an affordable educational experience," said Rebecca Conwell, 55, a consultant to Tulane. Conwell spent the last year working with the university to get the initiative going. "My strategic plan calls for a professional certification program ultimately, but it would start out with workshops."
At George Washington University, 70 online and hybrid online-and-classroom degrees and certificate programs provide opportunities to retired adults, according to Steven Knapp, the university president.
"Our spring 2015 enrollment includes 868 students age 50 or older," he said. "Last fall we had 905 students aged 50 or older."
State universities have their own ways to draw in older students. California's 23 state universities offer tuition-free classes in their Over 60 Program and Texas' public institutions have tuition-reduced programs for students 55 or older. Pennsylvania State University has a Go-60 program that offers tuition-free enrollment in undergraduate credit courses to people who are at least 60 and retired or working less than half time.
"If I were advising universities on ways to increase revenue, I would target boomers, seniors and retirees, particularly alumni, with information on being able to audit certain classes and then try to convert them to pay for additional courses," Art Koff, founder of the website RetiredBrains.com, told the Times.