In a new article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, I explain why EncoreU, Encore.org’s higher-education initiative, presents enormous opportunities for colleges and universities, for adult students and for society at large. The article sets out a clear vision for leaders of higher education and opens a public conversation about how higher ed can both serve and benefit from the rising demographic wave of able, experienced adults. A related Forbes.com article argues that universities ignore older students at their peril (and highlights some EncoreU programs across the U.S.).

It regularly astonishes me that, in conversations about the future of higher education, adult learners are so often ignored. For example, at a recent summit sponsored by The Economist, my mention of the potential power of the 50+ generation as a force for social change, and the urgency of leveraging that talent as a human resource too robust to ignore, drew strong interest. And at a White House summit on civic participation and higher ed, during a conversation that addressed a “bottleneck” of aging faculty, I urged consideration of a different approach, via EncoreU, that would leverage the talent within higher ed by creating pathways for encore-friendly institutions to work with retiring/phasing-out faculty in ways that preserve and respect their professional identities and provide challenging opportunities for experienced academics to use their skills for the greater good.

Encore.org’s vision for higher education takes the challenge of a rapidly aging demographic and turns it into a strength. As a nation, we are living longer and healthier lives; it is incumbent upon us all to discern and develop civic instruments that mine this enormous cultural change, by connecting adults with higher ed, and with opportunities to improve their own prospects and the prospects of future generations.

Published: December 8, 2014