Learning over the course of a lifetime can boost careers and earnings, has cognitive and social benefits, and increases the enjoyment of life. Baby boomers seem to appreciate these benefits, and many are taking advantage of opportunities to continue their learning.
Why is This Important?
Adults take part in educational activities for many reasons. Working adults frequently get additional education to enhance their careers or start second careers. Retirees and working adults also take classes to acquire new skills or pursue personal interests. For those seeking to enhance their careers, more education is important because it is generally associated with higher lifetime earnings. For retired individuals, educational activities can have important cognitive and social benefits -- keeping the mind limber and social interactions fresh.
How is Virginia Doing?
Virginia-specific information is not available, but at the national level, 44 percent of all adults 16 years old or over in 2005 participated in some type of formal adult educational activity (other than full-time enrollment in college or technical programs). The 2005 participation rate was up from 1995, when only 40 percent participated educational activities, but lower than 2001's 46 percent. [The 2001 rate was primarily a result of a temporary rise in work-related education, which increased from 21 percent in 1995 to 30 percent in 2001, before falling to 27 percent in 2005.]
Among adults 65 and older, however, there has been a strong trend toward greater participation in educational activities. In 1991, 10.3 percent of older adults took part in either work-related education or personal interest courses. By 2005, that had increased to 23 percent.
What Influences Lifelong Learning?
Among adults of all ages, the degree of prior education is the chief predictor of how much they will continue to participate in educational activities after formal schooling. The range and type of classes available also has an impact.
The increased participation of older adults is driven by increased desire -- and an increase in their sheer number. A growing percentage of older adults view additional education as:
- adding value for second careers, personal enrichment and psychological growth
- preventing or delaying the onset of cognitive decline
- aiding in adjustment to life beyond work
Demand for education is also
driven by the baby-boom bulge
in population. Those 65 and
over currently make up 16
percent of the U.S. population;
by 2020, that percentage is
expect to increase to 18 percent.
|All Adults||Employed Adults|
|Maintain or improve skills or knowledge||Learn new skills or knowledge||Help change job or career||Get or keep certificate or license||Employer required or suggested||Receive a promotion or pay increase|
|16 to 30 years||16,781||88%||84%||29%||27%||79%||26%|
|31 to 40 years||16,429||94%||77%||18%||37%||79%||18%|
|41 to 50 years||19,304||93%||74%||16%||34%||74%||14%|
|51 to 65 years||14,012||95%||70%||13%||35%||74%||13%|
|66 years or older||1,973||84%||75%||7%||35%||68%||11%|
Vol 7, Issues
1 & 2,
What is the State's Role?
Virginia has a number of lifelong learning centers, including those facilitated by the following colleges and universities:
- Christopher Newport University (CMU)
- George Mason University (GMU)
- Old Dominion University (ODU)
- University of Richmond (U of R)
- University of Virginia (UVa)
- Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
- College of William and Mary.
The Virginia Center on Aging at VCU has provided Elderhostel programs, now known as Exploritas, for more than 30 years. Their mission is to empower adults to explore the world's places, peoples, cultures and ideas -- and in so doing, to discover more about themselves.
The Office of Adult Education and Literacy coordinates public offerings for adult education and literacy in Virginia and works with adults seeking to get high school credentials, prepare for the workforce and enter post-secondary education programs.
The 23 community colleges in the Virginia Community College System offer a wide range of professional and personal interest classes and coordinate with local educators and businesses on workplace training courses. Many public high schools offer area residents summer and evening classes of interest to the community.
Data Definitions and Sources
National Household Education Surveys Program
Adult Education Participation in 2004-05
U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES)
Virginia Department of Education, Office of Adult
Education and Literacy.
Virginia Department for the Aging
Four-Year Plan For Aging Services - Report Document 461, 2009 (pdf, 792k)
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.