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Baby Boomers go to college


The results are in, and a nationwide program involving 100 community colleges has assisted thousands of baby boomers in going to college and earning degrees and certificates to improve their employability.

Researchers found that 15,800 students age 50 and up have participated in workforce development courses through the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, a grant program involving 100 community colleges across the country coordinated by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The program ran from 2012 to 2015.

Lake Region State College in Devils Lake was one of the participating colleges, with students entering the nursing program.

Approximately 9,075 baby boomers completed degrees and certificates through the program, which focused on training baby boomers for new jobs in the high-demand fields of health care, education and social services.

The numbers are astounding when you consider what they mean: that thousands of nontraditional students age 50 and up are going to college to train for new careers later in life.

“Going to college when you are older can be challenging for many people,” said Mary Sue Vickers, director of the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC. “This program focused on helping plus 50 adults adjust to college. It also helped colleges understand and accommodate their needs, while helping them train quickly for new jobs that are hiring.”

The program helped college staff make systemic improvements that streamlined admissions processes, put in place student supports and improve policies impacting baby boomers. Mentoring colleges, known as Champion Colleges, assisted the 100 participating colleges in implementing their programs, providing real-world and practical advice in working with students age 50 and up.

Colleges offered flexible scheduling, new workforce development courses, and accelerated degree and certificate programs to assist baby boomers who were eager to train for new jobs. The number of workforce courses rose steadily over the three-year project, going from 901 courses in 2012 to 3,744 in 2015.

Seventy percent of participating colleges also provided professional development training to instructors on their campuses so instruction could be tailored to meet the needs and learning styles of plus 50 students.
Completion coaches or advisors were utilized by 82 percent of participating colleges to help baby boomers navigate college requirements and coursework. Colleges also offered career development services and financial aid services to plus 50 students, among other support services provided.

The end result of their many effort is changed lives, noted Vickers. “This program helped thousands of plus 50 adults go to college and train for new careers in high-demand fields that are hiring”, said Vickers. “The story behind the numbers is one of changed and improved lives and communities.”

Results of the program evaluation are summarized in an evaluation report titled “Plus 50 Encore Completion Program: 2015 Process and Outcome Data Results.” The report was written by the evaluation firm Learning for Action and is available at The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program was funded by Deerbrook Charitable Trust.

The colleges involved in the program applied lessons learned from the Plus 50 Initiative, which began in 2008 at AACC and did earlier projects helping community colleges assisting baby boomers. A seminal turning point in the initiative came in 2009, when it re-tooled to better help baby boomers coping with the devastating economic fallout of the Great Recession and focused on helping plus 50 adults go to college and re-train for new jobs.

Even though AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative is ending, the “How To Manual: Designing and Delivering Training Opportunities for Plus 50 Students,” is available. The manual can be used by community colleges interested in a program model for effectively serving plus 50 students and is available at

For more information about the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC and a library of resources and materials to help community colleges implement best practices for supporting plus 50 students, see

About the American Association of Community Colleges
As the voice of the nation’s community colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), delivers educational and economic opportunity for 13 million diverse students in search of the American Dream. Uniquely dedicated to access and success for all students, AACC’s member colleges provide an on-ramp to degree attainment, skilled careers and family-supporting wages. Located in Washington, D.C., AACC advocates for these not-for-profit, public-serving instructions to ensure they have the resources and support they need to deliver on the mission of increasing economic mobility for all. More information is available at

About the Deerbrook Charitable Trust
The Deerbrook Charitable Trust is a private foundation. The Trust supports selected local, regional, and national organizations in the United States serving children, youth, and families. The Trust also supports work of selected organizations that improves or increases their effectiveness in delivering services, including efforts to alleviate critical shortages of healthcare providers, non-profit management, and other areas of need identified by the trustees. The Trust is particularly interested in supporting work that intentionally utilizes persons fifty years old and above who wish to use their expertise and life experience to assist organizations and individuals in fulfilling their goals. To learn more visit