Laid Off? Here’s How Higher Ed Is Even More Accessible For Adult Learners Than Ever Before

Laid Off? Here’s How Higher Ed Is Even More Accessible For Adult Learners Than Ever Before


Layoffs are once again making headlines.

After a period when it seemed like employers couldn’t hire fast enough — which unfortunately led some young people to forego college in favor of readily available work — things are slowing down. And, perhaps most frighteningly, layoffs are hitting even blue-chip, successful companies. Google’s parent, Alphabet, is laying off 12,000 employees. Microsoft will lay off 10,000. Amazon laid off 10,000 — and then started laying off 8,000 more. Goldman Sachs laid off 3,000; ad agencies, media companies, and even videogame makers are announcing rounds of layoffs. Who knows when the layoffs will end at Twitter.

There’s an obvious lesson here: that, even when times seem good, they won’t always be good, while a college education will always be a valuable investment. Data consistently show that those with college degrees can expect to earn far more in their lifetimes than those with only a high school diploma. College prepares students for their careers, prepares them for the world of work, prepares them to think critically, adapt to change, and continue to learn.

But as I’ve been watching the news about layoffs — even at a time when, happily, unemployment remains at or near all-time lows — I’m reminded once again that college can play an important role not just in setting people up for their careers but throughout the lifecycle of work. And that’s even more the case now than in the past.

It’s long been a truism that higher education is a countercyclical business — when the economy is in bad shape, people see an opportunity to go back to school, especially grad school.

But changes in how higher education works today, especially beyond the bachelor’s degree, make it even easier to integrate lifelong learning into adult students’ lives.

Especially after the pandemic, online education is a reality at nearly all institutions. Of course that means you can enroll in a specific program relative to your needs whether or not you live near the school that offers it. But it also means that you can take courses at a nearby college or university without needing to find time in your busy schedule for commuting — or even, in many case, without needing to be available at specific, pre-scheduled times.

College and universities are also rapidly expanding their offerings for coursework that produces a credential but doesn’t require the workload of a full degree. We call them certificates and badges, and while they can help build to a master’s degree, they can also provide you with a specific credential that helps you to get ahead.

It’s those kinds of programs, I think, that can be most useful to those facing a career transition in this current tumultuous time. If you’re laid off when the job market is generally strong, that’s not an incentive to enroll in a graduate program that will require several years to master a new field. But a six-week program that teaches you a new kind of data analytics, or an eight-week certification course for a different type of software, is always manageable, affordable, and valuable. Which makes that recent layoff can provide just the incentive you need to learn something new and pivot your career. Indeed, employers might even include incentives for such programs in their severance packages.

As the world around us changes so rapidly, institutions of higher education are adapting to keep up. We’re determined to meet students where they are, to offer programs that meet specific needs, and to open our doors to wider range of learners than we may have in the past. In other words, we’re here to be a resource not just when you’re in your early 20s but throughout your lives. As the job market gets bumpier, it’s time for more people to take advantage of that opportunity.

This post was orginally published on https://www.forbes.com/sites/marvinkrislov/2023/01/24/laid-off-heres-how-higher-ed-is-even-more-accessible-for-adult-learners-than-ever-before/?sh=1ba1d2c93aff

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