In this volume, we examine the ways student services professionals in institutions of higher education can best meet the needs of adult learners. Most of the discussion here is situated in four-year colleges and universities, although we recognize that community colleges play a large role in the higher education of adults. However, we made the decision to focus on four-year and post-graduate institutions because we believe that these institutions often are focused on traditional-aged students despite growing adult enrollments, and are most in need of guidance about how to serve this ever-growing population.
Students in higher education often are defined as "adult learners" or "non-traditional students" if they are 25 twenty-five years of age or older, and, more significantly, if they have taken on what we consider adult roles and responsibilities, such as caring for children and other family members, working full-time, or participating heavily in community activities. Adult students typically are not focused on campus life in the same way that younger, "traditional-aged" students are. Therefore, our theories of the importance of the campus experience outside the classroom to student development usually do not hold for adults. Yet, adults can and do learn and develop through their engagement in formal higher education. Adults bring experiences and wisdom into the classroom, and receive a learning experience that informs their own professional and personal practices.
This is the 102nd issue of the quarterly journal New Directions for Student Services.