to baby boomers returning to school. Baby boomers are Americans born between 1946
and 1964. Soldiers returning from WWII caused a rise in the birth rate of the United
States, creating a "boom" which is where the term "baby boom" comes from. There were
approximately 76 million baby boomers born during that 18 year span. The baby boomer
generation is now creating a "boom" in the field of adult education.
Enrollment in college programs by baby boomers has risen substantially. In 2001
the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that more than 20 percent
of United States college students are above the age of 30. (qtd. in CNN 1). The National
Center for Education Statistics also reported that enrollment of students aged 40 and
older has increased by 48 percent from the early 1970's. (1). The baby boomer
generation has become the driving force behind the growth of adult education.
The benefits of higher education for the boomers have been greater than that
of their parents. Baby boomer parents are from the Great Depression generation. These
Great Depression era parents were immigrants who believed that hard work was the way
to succeed in life. Upon arriving in America, the immigrants needed skills to help them
live in their new homeland. They learned a new language, to read and that education
was necessary to secure their future. These parents raised their children with the belief
that education would open many doors for their children's futures.
The effects of education for the baby boomers was stronger than for their parents
of the Great Depression generation. "Both baby boomers and their parents enjoyed a
positive association between net worth and education." (Keister 5). According to
National Center for Educational Statistics the boomers have acquired more wealth by
the age of 30 than their immigrant parents had acquired by that same age. The boomers
have enjoyed a higher income than their parents substantiating the theory that higher
education is the key to success. Educated boomers were enjoying the reward of a
higher lifestyle than that of their uneducated immigrant parents.
The baby boomer students have proven themselves to be the fastest growing
educational demographic. Record breaking boomer enrollment in part-time adult
education programs has been reported throughout the country. Baby boomer enrollments
are increasing proportionately faster than enrollment of younger students.
Today the baby boomers have reached middle age and expect to remain
physically active for most of their life. Career changes, corporate downsizing and the
wave of new technology requires that baby boomers return to the classroom to update
their skills. "Labor forces of the future will see dramatic changes as the baby boomer
generation reaches retirement age." (Niznik 1). The boomer labor force age group
of 45-64 will grow at a fast pace due to baby boomers not retiring. The growth of
enrollment of baby boomers in the professional degree programs has been substantial.
More than half of the enrollment for the managerial degrees are baby boomer students.
Having a college degree affords baby boomers great opportunities for their future.
As Knable pointed out, "Without having the proper credentials baby boomers feel they
may not have the qualifications required for the position they desire." (Knable 3). Baby
boomers want careers that give them energy, a sense of self determination and the
opportunity to make meaningful contributions...