But these days, it's not just 18-year-olds in the classroom -- it's their parents. This year, a growing number of working adults are packing college classrooms, and the education landscape in Columbus continues to change. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are now 6 million college students over the age of 25, comprising 37 percent of the college student population.
These nontraditional students are seeking practical skills they can use on the job and grow within the community. They are demanding flexible class schedules and taking advantage of new technology that allows them to earn a degree without putting their lives on hold.
Education experts attribute the increasing number of adults returning to the classroom to the realization that the only way to move ahead professionally is to go back school. In addition, more and more adults recognize the value of a master's degree in today's competitive marketplace.
Studies have consistently shown that students with advanced degrees earn more each year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people with master's degrees can expect to earn $2.5 million over their lifetime, while graduates with a bachelor's degree earn a lifetime average of $2.1 million. High school graduates average just $1.2 million in lifetime earnings.
Although professional advancement is a primary motivator, there are other benefits of earning an advanced degree.
* Credibility. Not only does a master's degree set professionals apart from their peers and enhance personal reputation, it also reinforces the owner's dedication to his/her profession.
* Networking. Since many classes are filled with working professionals, it is not uncommon for partnerships to be fostered in the classroom that spill out into the business arena. Instructors boast a wealth of contacts from past students or current colleagues and may even own their own businesses.
* Applicable knowledge. The true motivation for pursuing a master's degree should be a desire to learn new strategies, grasp growing industry trends and seek exposure to time-tested models of business success. Most instruction is applicable the following day at work.
Institutions in Columbus are now making education accessible to even the most time-crunched students. With convenient night and weekend courses, professionals no longer need to put their lives on hold for an education.
Another way universities are catering to the busy business professional is by offering online coursework. Institutions are utilizing both in-class and online instruction. In fact, nearly 75 percent of colleges and universities have some sort of online program. In response to this growing trend, schools are offering "online courses with class" that require only one or two days of on-site instruction, giving students the ultimate in flexible education options.
Working adults are redefining the landscape of education in Columbus. They are not just debating academic theories in the classroom.
Instead, they are discussing with other working professionals how those theories are applied in our business world. It's a paradigm shift that is making education accessible and relevant to more people than ever before. Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 200,000 students at more than 142 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.