Wiser and Older: The Movement to Enroll Community College Students Over the Age of 50

Wiser and Older: The Movement to Enroll Community College Students Over the Age of 50
Who says college is just for the 18 - 22 year old crowd? In fact, more community colleges are recruiting students over the age of 50 - and for good reason!
The current economic conditions of this country have resulted in more adults working well into their retirement years. Unfortunately, not every individual in this demographic is properly prepared to find success in a career in the later years of life. To help this sector of our population become more marketable and to utilize the resources of our older population to the fullest, the Plus 50 Initiative was developed. This initiative is designed to help Americans over the age of 50 train for new careers and piggyback on skills they already have to make them even more attractive in today's marketplace.

Purpose of the Plus 50 Program
 
The Plus 50 Initiative was started by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to help adults in this age bracket find the best community college programs for their needs. The initiative, according to the website, provides benchmarks and showcases programs around the country that specifically cater to the over-50 learner. These campus programs are used for everything from preparing seniors for volunteer opportunities to offering training and retraining in specific career industries.
 
The initiative began in response to the realization that more than 78 million baby boomers are creeping into retirement age. Of that number, a large majority plan to work into their retirement years – either on a full-time or part-time basis. A significant number admit they do not feel ready for retirement from an economic or professional standpoint. To help these individuals get training they need to maintain their positions in the professional marketplace, the Plus 50 Initiative was born.
 
How the Plus 50 Initative Started
 
According to a report at the Community College Times, the Plus 50 Initiative began in 2008 with just 15 community colleges participating in the movement. Within a year, this program added 12 more schools to their list, and today, the program boasts more than 30 community colleges across the country that are striving to help students in their later years find academic and professional success.
 
AACC President and CEO George Boggs told the Community College Times, "With President Obama calling on our nation's community colleges to help unemployed and laid off Americans get back to work, we are seeing increased demand from college leaders for support in structuring effective programs for plus-50 adults. This expansion effort will share best practices with more colleges and help them more efficiently work with baby boomers."
 
The programs focus on expanding the baby boomer student population with support in learning, training and career development. Preparation for volunteer positions is also addressed through this program. The three-year project was started with a $3.2 million grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies, and the sponsorship of AACC.  
 
Where Plus 50 is Working
 
At Clover Park Technical College in Washington, a new grant from the Lumina Foundation will be expanding the Plus 50 Initiative for adults looking for retraining for a more lucrative profession. Dr. John Walstrum, president of Clover Park Technical College, told the Suburban Times, "We are excited to partner with the AACC for the Plus 50 Initiative. In times of high unemployment, workers over the age of 50 need this kind of support and Clover Park is the right place to complete their credentials and degrees so they can get back to work."
 
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the over-50 population was one that was hit hardest in the latest recession. Statistics show that this demographic was the least likely of all unemployed workers to find jobs, with only 15% finding jobs each month in 2009. The agency also predicts that the majority of fast-growing occupations over the next few years will require some sort of post-secondary education credential for hiring.
 
This Midwestern college is one of four across the country that has been selected as a Plus 50 Initiative Peer-to-Peer Ambassador, according to the college website. As an ambassador, STLCC will be working to expand the network of colleges involved in the Plus 50 program. The school will share information with other institutions on how to begin a Plus 50 program and participate in national discussions about how to make post-secondary education more accessible to baby boomers.
 
The over-50 population now has more options in career training than ever before. Thanks to the Plus 50 Initiative, more baby boomers heading into retirement can do so with the training they need to continue working in a successful career for as long as they like. With programs designed just for their needs, this demographic will find new academic and professional life at community colleges across the country.

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