Three newly released studies indicate a shift in the bachelor completer/nontraditional student market. The first is an Eduventures study on adult learner demand. It includes top data points from 2016 and was released in 2017. The second is from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, also released in 2017. Finally, a 2016 outcomes and demographics study by Course Report1 covers the emergence of coding boot camps, which are proving to attract both prospective students and employers.

Increased Interest in Non-Degree Credentials

The Eduventures study, “Adult Learner Demand, Top Data Points from 2016,” (gated) reveals a change regarding interest in bachelor-completer programs. While interest in degrees remains strong, adult learners are giving more attention to non-degree credentials and certificates. These options are seen as both supplements and alternatives to traditional degrees. Adult learners are prioritizing relevant, fast and high-value opportunities — and non-degree routes hit all three points.

The report also states that interest in degree vs. non-degree credential attainment shifted by nine percentage points between 2013 and 2016, in favor of non-degrees. Even so, it says, outcomes of this shift are not yet clear and Eduventures says that certificate-completer outcomes are under-researched.

Students Flocking to Boot Camps

Another interesting development is the emergence of independent schools that teach software engineering. Born out of a labor shortage, these “boot camps,” as they’re often called, are the result of employers and industry leaders taking matters into their own hands. Students are flocking to 42, an open, tuition-free coding school in Silicon Valley. Funded by a French billionaire, the school’s mission goes beyond building up the workforce.

The school’s mission is described on 42’s website:

“Traditional selection criteria often prevent too many of today’s young adults either from reaching their higher education goals or from attaining a professional skill set. At 42, neither financial ability nor educational degree are weighed in the selection process; the fact that students are selected solely on the basis of their talent and motivation is indicative of the core philosophy of this uniquely innovative, educational approach.”

According to Course Report1, in 2016 close to 18,000 students were expected to graduate from 91 full-time coding boot camps nationwide. Most camps require an average of 12.9 weeks of coursework and tuition averages $11,451 per student.

Outcomes include:

  • 73 percent of surveyed graduates reported being employed in a full-time job requiring the skills learned at boot camp, with an average salary increase of 64 percent. The average salary lift was $26,000.
  • The typical boot camper was 30 years old with bachelor’s degree and about seven years of work experience, but none of it as a programmer.
  • 43 percent of boot campers were women, compared with 15.7 percent in undergrad computer science.

30 Percent Increase in Student Parents

Interestingly, student parents are the fastest-growing demographic on traditional college and community college campuses nationwide, according to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The findings indicate that this is the case in all regions and institution types.

The report goes on to say that the “number of student parents in the United States climbed by 1.1 million, or 30 percent—from 3.7 million in 2004 to 4.8 million in 2012 (the most recent eight-year period for which national data are available).” The 1.1 million student parents enrolled at four-year institutions in 2012 comprise 23 percent of the total student-parent population (including public and private not-for-profit institutions).

Nearly a third of all undergraduate women are mothers, and the majority of those are single mothers (roughly 2 million women, or 60 percent of all student mothers, are single mothers.) Ironically, on-campus childcare services have decreased by 10 percent over the past 10 years, according to Education Dive. A state-by-state assessment is available here.

And here’s another challenge for higher education: Student parents are nearly 50 percent more likely than those without children to have an expected family contribution of zero.

Variables to Watch

Is higher education shifting into a new age? This trio of reports certainly seems to support the ideas that workforce readiness is top of mind for adult learners, and the increase in student parents is putting a new face on college students. Can colleges gain from offering short-term programs? Will the colleges with daycare facilities win enrollments over those that don’t? All things to watch over the next year.

1 Eggleston, Liz. ”2016 Coding Bootcamp Market Size Study.” Course Report, 22 June 2016. Accessed online 22 Feb. 2017. <>.