College-ready teens in short supply

In some states with an aging population, particularly states such as Ohio, Michigan, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, the number of high school graduates will decline by 18 to 20 percent, according to the CLASP report.

Young people who graduate from high school and go on to college, the traditional source of new workers, will no longer sufficiently fill the huge number of jobs that require postsecondary training.

It becomes imperative for nontraditional students to help close the gap between qualified workers and jobs available, the report said.

“The country’s economic competitiveness rests on more people accessing postsecondary education and credentials,” said Patrick Kelly, a senior associate at NCHEMS and co-author of the report. “And with the aging of our population and decline in number of recent high school graduates entering college and the workforce, we need to make sure even more adults and nontraditional students have the skills they need to fill tomorrow’s jobs.”

Nontraditional students already make up a substantial portion of the undergraduate population: According to a 2008 report compiled by the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success and CLASP, more than 47 percent of undergraduate students are considered “independent” because they are 24 years or older, married, responsible for legal dependents, orphans or wards of the court, or veterans of the U.S. armed services.

The “Not Kid Stuff Anymore” report projects that between 2009 and 2019, adult enrollments will increase by twice as much as enrollments by traditional-age students.

The report calls for changes in federal student aid policies to assist the flow of adult and nontraditional students into postsecondary education, and eventually into the workforce.

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