Continuing education 101

Adult and nontraditional students fuel growth at North Carolina college. 

Guilford Grows Up
With plush green lawns, colonial architecture and roots in the Quaker faith, Guilford College rests comfortably in the long tradition of liberal arts institutions. Contemplating the culture of a college like Guilford, one might readily imagine groups of young people diving into Yeats or Wordsworth beneath a canopy of shady oaks. And while there’s surely some truth to that stereotype, Guilford’s last decade of growth has been largely tied to a significant increase in nontraditional students, making the college one where you’re just as likely to see a mother of two in her mid-30s as an 18-year-old freshman.

Guilford’s adult bachelor’s degree programs date to the 1950s, but it was only in the last decade that the adult population began to rival that of traditional students on the residential campus. While college officials say that serving adults is part of Guilford's community-oriented philosophy, they also acknowledge that these students are crucial to bringing in additional revenue.

Adults made up about 35 percent of Guilford’s enrollment in the early 2000s, but they now constitute close to half of the North Carolina independent college's students. Indeed, Guilford's enrollment of about 2,800 this fall constituted a doubling of size in about 10 years, and that growth has mostly come from students who are 23 or older.

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