Are Weekend and Evening Courses the Future of Higher Ed?

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Sara Anderson
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Half of U.S. adults have considered enrolling in college over the past two years — so for higher ed, better days are ahead as colleges shift towards offering evening and weekend courses.
Ask anyone with a 55-minute commute to their 40+ hour-a-week job, then trek back home where dinner, the kid’s soccer game, and laundry are waiting, and they will tell you what they need most in life: flexibility.
“Flexibility” may automatically suggest “online learning,” with the legacy of the pandemic leaving its mark on online versus on campus study options.
Busy adult learners need more than just multiple program offerings and modality options - they need flexibility with class schedules.
 Night and weekend course offerings are nothing new and are expected to remain an option. It’s just one way of helping adult learners meet life’s obligations and their educational and career goals.
Adult learners drop in enrolment rate 
In spring 2022, enrolment of over 24-year-olds in colleges fell by 5.8% — which equates to a staggering 354,000 students.
Overall, enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs has been trending downward since around 2012, with the pandemic serving as a catalyst.
In the U.S., the average graduate student is 33 years old. Many schools now offer programs for completing bachelor’s degrees, micro-credentialing, and non-degree-seeking students alongside working full-
Are weekend classes or evening lectures the reason behind older demographics reconsidering colleges?
Here are some of the reasons why your institution should consider providing programs outside of working hours:
  • Cost of living has increased globally. Offering the option of evening classes gives your prospective student base the chance to work alongside taking classes – therefore relieving the expectations that they must quit their job to study.
  • Weekend classes give students more time to fulfill responsibilities during the week knowing they won’t have to drive to campus or log on for class after work when their energy levels could be low.
  • Allowing time for internships is another bonus – meaning students achieve their education alongside practical experience and knowledge.
  • Having weekend and evening classes may better allow industry professionals to teach – bettering the quality of education for your students. Your workforce and professors can continue to work in their career during the working day, and then teach during the evenings – sharing the most up-to-date and relevant knowledge.
  • Some students who enroll in weekend-only programs build stronger bonds with their classmates than those who attend day or week-night classes. Weekends offer a more relaxed atmosphere and typically smaller class sizes, increasing the overall student satisfaction rates.
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How can colleges and universities help prospective students determine if an evening or weekend schedule is a good fit?
Above all, transparency. Admissions and counselors should explain what enrolling in an evening and weekend program looks like; sharing testimonials and insights from current students, faculty input, and program outcomes. How many enrolled students graduated, and if not, what factors drove them to drop out?
Cost is always in question — no matter the student’s age. According to Forbes Advisor, those between 25-34 carry between $10,000 and $40,000 of student debt, while those 35-49 owe more than $100,000 (the highest cohort). You can reduce fear and anxiety by offering financial assistance options and scholarship opportunities. A little empathy also goes a long way.
Who decides the future of weekend courses? Ask half of the U.S. adults who have considered enrolling.
According to a recent Gallup report, forty-four percent of U.S. adults who are not currently enrolled in a college degree or certificate program report that they have considered enrolling in the past two years.
U.S. adults believe higher education plays a critical role in landing a great job and living a great life. As millions of Americans are rethinking their post-pandemic career paths and with employees having the upper hand in a shifting workforce, higher education institutions are on track to have a crucial impact on the upskilling and reskilling of U.S. adults.
With the economy on “shaky ground,” talking about boosting salaries and the return on investment of a college education makes sense now more than ever.
According to Lightcast, adult learners earn an average of $7,500 more per year after returning to college. Education pays off for the student and the institution. Again: it’s a win-win.
Tapping into this market is crucial for admission and marketing. Researching the demand, surveying prospective students, and leveraging existing programs as test pilots can help students and schools determine if weekend courses will be a much bigger part of the future — and a new reason to make weekends something to look forward to.
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