Dorms are filling up, classes are starting, and Frisbees are flying above quads at colleges and universities across the country. But these familiar seasonal patterns don't reflect how a growing number of students are starting the year.
More and more older Americans are heading back to school, often part time or in the evenings, and their rate of enrollment is rising faster than students of typical college age. In 2009, students aged 25 and older accounted for roughly 40 percent of all college and graduate students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That figure is expected to rise to 43 percent by 2020 as 9.6 million older students head to campus.
Students over age 35, who accounted for 17 percent of all college and graduate students in 2009, are expected to comprise 19 percent of that total by 2020.
"Older workers are seeing this sort of as a gateway to create a lifestyle later in life that they want," said Cyndi Hutchins, director of financial gerontology at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.