Report Finds Increased Interest in Higher Ed for Career Advancement

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Lumina Foundation and Gallup's State of Higher Education 2024 ReportLumina Foundation and Gallup’s State of Higher Education 2024 ReportLumina Foundation and GallupWhile interest in higher education is increasingly high among adults, many perspective students see cost as a hindrance while some current students are dispirited by emotional stress, according to a new study by Lumina Foundation and Gallup.

The State of Higher Education 2024 Report documents how current, prospective, and stopped-out students view post-high school education pathways, their access to them, their value, and experiences. The study includes responses from more than 14,000 U.S. adults, ages 18 to 59, who do not have a college degree and are either currently enrolled, dropped-out, or never-enrolled adults.

About 84% of prospective students listed career outcomes among their reasons to be interested in pursuing higher education with particular interest in degree and industry certification programs.

The survey found that nearly two-thirds of currently enrolled students (64%) have considered stopping out of their degree or credential program within the last six months partly due to emotional stress or mental health concerns. About a third of students counted cost as a concern that could lead them to stop out.

The report revealed that Americans still see higher education as the most reliable path to a good career with 51% of currently unenrolled adults responding that they are likely to enroll in higher education in the next five years.

While cost remains a persistent hurdle for unenrolled adults, additional flexibility in program delivery can help in their decision to enroll.

“This may take the form of remote learning opportunities, more scheduling options that allow working learners to integrate school into their work schedule, and finding ways to accelerate the pace at which learners can earn their degree or credential,” the report advised.

Additionally, the report concluded that ensuring educational pathways are accessible to as many Americans as possible is not just a boon to those individuals’ careers and finances; the future of the U.S. economy depends on it.

The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce projects that by 2031, 72% of jobs will require some kind of education beyond high school. Meanwhile, Lumina estimates that 54% of U.S. adults, ages 25 to 64, have met that education threshold. “Closing the gap will rely on helping those who are considering higher education overcome the barriers currently preventing them from enrolling, persisting and completing a degree or credential.”

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