Appendix D



Penn State Adult Learners


Prepared by Martha Jordan, Senior Director of Adult Learner Advocacy, Outreach and Online Education for the Committee on Outreach

During the Spring of 2005, Penn State’s reorganization created an opportunity for the University to place increased emphasis on the adult learner and their access to degree programs at each of our campuses.  The changing demographics supported this as the market share of traditional students was declining in most areas across the Commonwealth.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, only 12 percent of the undergraduate student body at Penn State was comprised of adult learners.

Today we are experiencing growth in the numbers of adult learner enrollments, which is now at 21 percent.  The increase in the number of military students utilizing their GI benefits; the integration of World Campus courses and programs towards degree completion at our campuses; and the emphasis placed on reviewing policies and procedures to address the needs of this population have all contributed to this increase in enrollments.

The University’s Commission for Adult Learners has supported initiatives that continually improve the experience of this population and increase their recruitment and retention.  Creating an office and director of Prior Learning Assessment, a University-wide Financial Literacy Program and, the Course Substitution Request System (CSRS) are just a few of the many accomplishments which had their beginnings during discussions at Commission meetings and are now meeting the needs of the greater population of Penn State’s students.

Penn State’s official definition of an adult learner is a student who meets one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. 24 years of age or older; or
  2. Is a veteran of the armed services; or an active duty service member; or
  3. Is returning to school after four or more years of employment, homemaking, or other activity; or
  4. Assumes multiple adult roles such as parent, spouse/partner, and employee.

Questions for the consideration and discussion of the Senate:

  1. What are some of the difficulties and barriers that adult learners face in planning to attend and complete a degree at Penn State?
  1. How can faculty address the need of flexibility that many of our adult learners experience as they juggle course requirements, employment, and parenting responsibilities?
  2. World Campus has created an online course OL3100 “Teaching Adult Learners” to help faculty better understand how adult learners approach learning. What additional resources could be created?


Richard Brown
Dennis Calvin
Anne Douds
Jill Eckert
Renata Engel
Terry Harrison
Alex Hristov
Beth King, Vice Chair
Lisa Mangel
John Potochny
Rama Radhakrishna
Elizabeth Seymour, Chair
Jonathan Stephens
Cristina Truica