Baby boomers are going back to school. Today, record numbers of boomers are returning to the classroom, both onsite and online. While some go back out of necessity, needing new skills for a new job, others seek advancement in their professional careers or an encore career. However, many boomers are going back to college for the mental stimulus and the sheer pleasure of learning new things.
The boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, is adding a new dimension to the world of higher education. While individual baby boomers go back to school for different reasons, their collective devotion to continuing education is setting a new trend. Boomers see continuing education as the avenue to a better paying job, a promotion, a salary increase or a new career path. Retired boomers are going back to school to keep their brains agile and have fun.
The ‘boomer continuing education trend’ has fashioned a new culture in the world of higher education. Colleges and universities are welcoming baby boomer students, catering to their educational pursuits with special curricula and programs geared to boomer needs and interests.
Today’s baby boomer students have a wealth of learning options and opportunities. They may attend classes on campus or select online curricula. Boomer educational preferences include:
- environmental issues;
- liberal arts;
- social services; and
- business administration.
Many higher education institutions have created ‘adult learner service centers,’ accommodating the special needs of boomer students. Insidehighered.com reports these centers ‘identify the student’s current skills, provide career counseling, refer them to other support services and help track them through their certificate or degree program.’
Some universities give boomers the opportunity to sign up for 50+ educational programs with no credit or homework so they can take courses for the pleasure of learning. In Maryland, Towson University offers the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for adults age 50 and older, giving boomers learning opportunities along with ‘programs and activities for social and cultural enrichment.’
The baby boomer continuing education boom is likely to grow as more boomers retire. Colleges and universities are already catering to boomers going back to school, developing special programs to meet their needs. Many schools are creating or expanding 50+ curricula to accommodate the increasing flow of boomer students. Baby boomers are changing the culture of higher education.