Adult Learners: Emerging Activists of the Modern Campus

Adult Learners: Emerging Activists of the Modern Campus

David Deggs (Southern Methodist University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7274-9.ch008

Abstract

Student activism is mostly thought of as an activity that engages and motivates the traditional-aged students in American higher education to action. The emergence of student activism in the 1960s occurred when enrollment in American higher education was still primarily limited to youth from middle- and upper-class families. The demographics of American higher education have shifted, and the adult learner or non-traditional student now represents a significant amount, if not the majority, of most campus populations. The adult learner brings unique perspective to the higher education classroom based upon their real-world experiences that directly impacts their values, beliefs, and ideas about societal issues. Adult learners in American higher education have the potential to change the ways, means, and longstanding outcomes related to activism in American higher education.
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Nontraditional Student: The New Traditional Student

The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that approximately 74% of all undergraduate college students in the United States have at least one nontraditional characteristic. These characteristics of nontraditional or adult students in higher education include being independent for financial aid purposes, having one or more dependents, being a single caregiver, not having a traditional high school diploma, delaying postsecondary enrollment, attending school part time, and being employed full time (Radford, Cominole & Skomsvold, 2015). This shift in student demographics has been gradually occurring over many decades and have caused higher education leaders to rethink its design and delivery models. Most of this attention has been directed toward relevant curriculum for career progression or changes in delivery formats. The changes have focused on essential activities to support adult learner access, retention, graduation, and transitions.

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