Major Returns for Adult Learners Going Back to College

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A new report by Lightcast, a company that provides labor market data, found that going back to college is an especially good investment for adults learners. An analysis of more than 125 million online career profiles found that this group was 22 percent more likely to achieve upward mobility and earned annual salaries 140 percent greater than peers who didn't return to college. Adult learners earned an average of $7,500 more per year after returning to college.

The report also found that adult learners who earned associate degrees in more technical fields such as engineering and health had greater economic mobility gains than those who pursued bachelor's degrees in less technical fields such as business or psychology. These students also had greater gains at public institutions compared to private or for-profit institutions. Meanwhile, groups underrepresented in certain majors, including women and Hispanics, were also more likely to become upwardly mobile compared to their peers. For example, women made up only 0.3 percent of engineering technologies majors but were more likely to earn a higher salary after going back to college compared to their male counterparts.

"Continuing education pays off for students and for learning providers alike" Rucha Vankudre, senior economist at Lightcast, said in a press release. "Adult learners are significantly more likely than others to be upwardly mobile–and by making sure those programs are friendly to students who aren't typical undergraduates, especially working adults or parents, institutions can strengthen their regions' economies while also increasing their own enrollment."

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