Top 24 Schools for Adult Degree Programs

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Best Colleges for Non Traditional Students

Schools for Adults Going Back To College

In recent years, the fastest growing population of college students are over the age of 25 – adults who wish to advance their careers, dropped out of or never attended college, single parents, military, and those looking to better their life are all choosing higher education. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, between 2000 and 2011 enrollment of students over the age of 25 rose by 41%. Regardless of the reason for pursuing higher education, we here at Best College Reviews have compiled a ranking of the schools that help make the college dream a reality by rating what adults are looking for in a college: flexibility, transfer options, online classes, and acceptance rate.

Top 10 Ranking for Non-Traditional Students

Rank School Location
1 Charter Oak State College New Britain, CT
2 Excelsior College Albany, NY
3 Walden University Minneapolis, MN
4 Thomas Edison State College Trenton, NJ
5 Northcentral University Scottsdale, AZ
6 Brandman University Irvine, CA
7 University of Maryland-University College Largo, MD
8 Granite State College Concord, NH
9 Peirce College Philadelphia, PA
10 Post University Waterbury, CT

This ranking was based on the following criteria:

  • Percentage of students over the age of 25
  • College acceptance rate
  • Percentage of students enrolled in distance education
  • Flexible options

Statistics for this ranking were gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics and Peterson’s.

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Featured Online Schools

24. Troy University

The motto of Troy University is to “Educate the mind to think, the heart to feel, and the body to act.” Founded in 1887 to train teachers, Troy University now enrolls 20,000 total students at 4 campuses, with sites in the U.S. and internationally. Troy offers 46 bachelor’s degree programs, 22 master’s degree programs, and 2 doctoral programs. When it comes to adults continuing or starting fresh, flexibility is the key word. At Troy professionals can continue their education or new students over 25 can start down a new path. The Professional Development Institute (PDI) is designed to provide targeted training to professionals in multiple industries and has helped over 20,000 people advance in their careers. The Adult Education program is flexible to fit the needs of the learners: online, in-class, or blended. Students can also decide if they want an accelerated program, semester, trimester, or session format, as well as the location of their learning and the multiple options of associates and bachelor’s degrees. If flexibility and choice is on top of the “how-to-decide” list, Troy University delivers.

23. Upper Iowa University

Students at Upper Iowa University have great flexibility and choice through their Online Program or the Self-Paced Degree Program. Adult students have global access with no need to be on campus. The Center for Distance Education serves over 3,000 students from around the world. The asynchronous courses allow students to attend class anytime during the day or night, making it easy for the adult with a busy schedule. The Online Program offers six eight-week terms every year so that students never have to wait more than two months to start classes. Classes require active participation in discussions on course topics that enhance student learning – all from the comforts of home. Regardless of a student’s situation in life, (work, children, family, or health issues) Upper Iowa University provides the support and flexibility to make earning a degree an attainable goal.

22. Cameron University

Cameron University is proud to offer an “Electronic Campus” where students may take online courses as an expansion of traditional courses offered at the university. One way students may participate in this program is to take Interactive Television Courses or study through Educational Outreach Programs. Students may incorporate these options with online and hybrid courses to find a program that meets their individual educational needs. There are many flexible alternatives at Cameron, which is just one reason 40% of Cameron students are enrolled in distance education. In order to assist students who are earning their degree from a distance, Cameron University offers students eight free hours of tutoring through With 41% of Cameron students over the age of 25, this university is suited to help adult learners earn their degrees.

21. The University of Houston – Downtown

The second largest university in the Houston area with over 14,000 students, the University of Houston – Downtown is one of four public universities in the University of Houston System. UH-D offers many options for non-traditional students through off-campus programs. Whether it is online courses, live video instruction, hybrid courses, or traditional classroom instruction at a satellite campus, choices are plentiful for those driven to complete a college education. Students may take single courses or entire degree programs with the majority of instruction occurring remotely. Off campus, learners can take advantage of the academic support and student services available to all UHD students. Distance courses are a great choice for working adults; they are as rigorous and content rich as courses offered in traditional classroom settings.

20. Regis University

Beginning with a group of exiled Italian Jesuits living in New Mexico, Regis University has a “values-centered education that shapes intelligent decision-making and strengthens commitment to community service.” Regis educates about 15,000 students. The adult education at Regis is delivered in accelerated 5 and 8-week terms that start six times a year. Their College of Professional Studies helps adult learners find the right degree, learning format (online, on campus, directed learning, or a combination) and time frame. There are many different options for degrees. However, not all are offered in all three of the learning formats (online, campus-based, directed learning). Regis accepts 76% of applicants and over 60% of students are over 25 thus making it a fitting choice for adult education.

19. Brenau University

Brenau University offers a quality education in every format. It was founded in 1878 and is located in Gainesville, Georgia. Currently, the university enrolls about 2,800 students who seek degrees ranging from two-year Associate of Arts through doctorate. Brenau provides online and traditional (or a combination) for adult learners. The accelerated Adult and Graduate Studies (AGS) Programs at Brenau are flexible for any lifestyle, work, or family. ASG students will learn through participation in the classroom and a personal learning team, meeting weekly outside of class in either a face-to-face or a technology-mediated environment. There are many options for adult learners in business, education, science, and the arts with a 78% acceptance rate, 54% over 25 years old, and strong online potential with 59% of students enrolled in distance education.

18. Indiana Institute of Technology

It is no wonder that 69% of the students at Indiana Institute of Technology are over the age of 25, and 54% are enrolled in some form of distance education. The College of Professional Studies program is top-notch and an excellent choice for the adult learner. Classes begin every five weeks, and students can choose from evening, weekend, and online classes. This flexibility makes the dream of a college degree reality for the working adult. Indiana Institute of Technology’s guiding principle is to “combine education with real-world experience where students learn theory and practice from faculty who weave professional experience and firsthand knowledge into academically rigorous curricula.” There is no doubt that the College of Professional Studies lives up to this principle.

17. College of Southern Nevada

The College of Southern Nevada’s Online Campus offers hundreds of accredited online college courses in dozens of majors, 19 online associate’s degrees, 7 online Certificates of Achievement, 1 online Certificate of Completion, and 1 online bachelor’s degree. With its open acceptance policy, this a great pick for the student who doesn’t have previous college credits, or a low, high school or college GPA. Students are supported while having the flexibility to earn credits one by one, or working towards an associate’s degree or certificate. The College of Southern Nevada Online serves over 10,000 students in any one semester, and 45% are over the age of 25, ranging in age from 16-62. Because of the partnership with the military, community colleges across the country, and universities worldwide, this is a great place to begin adult education, or to earn credits that can later be transferred into a four-year degree.

16. Wayland Baptist University

Students at Wayland Baptist University can take advance of the Virtual Campus that brings the university’s learning focused and Christian environment to the internet. Students receive individual guidance and personal support all throughout their fully integrated education. There are two ways that students can take advantage of this virtual campus: current students may complete onsite programs by taking classes online, or students may enroll in one of Wayland Baptist’s online degrees. These flexible options are the perfect match for the adult learner who has the needs of work and home competing with their ability to earn a degree; adults will benefit from the personal experience the faculty and staff provide, along with the chance to finish a degree at their own pace on their own time.

15. Keiser University

With an 89% acceptance rate and 68% of students 25 and older, Keiser University offers diversity, flexibility, and choice. Founded in 1977 by the Keiser family, with the mission to create a school to serve better adult learners seeking a career-focused education, Keiser is now a large school doing just that and more. With over 20,000 students, a campus in 17 of Florida’s major and mid-sized cities, and degrees in over 100 fields, this could be a place for a fresh start or to advance in a career. For adults looking for a new a career in STEM, Keiser is serving the need with 62% of graduates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and health care fields annually. The school is also very military friendly, offers great financial aid, and is even located in multiple international locations.

14. Davenport University

A private, non-profit, multi-location University, Davenport University has 11 locations throughout the state of Michigan and online. Because Davenport has multiple locations, it is easy for adults to attend the campus most conveniently situated between work and home. In addition to this flexibility, students may take evening, weekend, and online classes; 56% of Davenport students are enrolled in some sort of distance education. Students who previously attended college will find it easy to transfer credits, and the university also awards credits to students who complete portfolios documenting the relevant career and personal learning. Davenport prides itself on a “practical curriculum,” making it a priority for adult students to earn a degree that puts them in high demand as a career professional. It is no wonder that 61% of Davenport University students are over the age of 25, the university does an excellent job supporting and accommodating adult learners.

13. Elizabethtown College

Founded in 1899 by members of the Church of the Brethren, Elizabethtown College is located in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Over the last 50 years, the College’s adult program evolved into what is known today as the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. This branch of the college seeks to extend the boundaries of the college’s learning community to include a wider and more diverse population, and to give access to quality education for adults. There are many programs available through Elizabethtown College’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. One of which is EXCEL, a highly individualized program that offers the flexibility desired by many adult learners, with the goal of accelerated degree completion. This is designed specifically for adults who have significant work-related experience in the field in which they plan to finish their degree. In addition to this program, the college offers multiple campuses and online classes offering students ultimate flexibility and support.

12. Empire State College

Most of the students at Empire State College are between 25 to 55 years old, with a median age of 36, and are in the prime of their working lives. Empire State College is ready to serve these students, employed as professionals, often raising families, and primed to learn. Because most of their students aren’t able to participate in a conventional college experience, Empire State College makes it possible for adults to design their degree, transfer in previous credits, and blend different modes of learning to accommodate busy schedules. There are many options including guided independent study, where a student works one-on-one with a faculty mentor, online courses, study groups, which are periodic small-group meetings with other students, or residencies, where students attend weekly seminars to explore topics in depth in a group setting. Empire State College is a part of the State University of New York System, which is one of the largest comprehensive systems of universities, colleges, and community colleges in the United States.

11. University of Maine at Augusta

Options overflow at the University of Maine at Augusta, making this an excellent choice for the adult learner who is trying the juggle the priorities of education, children, and work. The University of Maine at Augusta is a branch of the University of Maine System that supports distance education by providing courses and full degree programs at locations all around the state. There are 9 centers located throughout Maine. In addition to these centers, the university offers 25 site locations around the state where many of the online courses can be video streamed, and where students may take exams. These are excellent options for Maine residents, but in order to reach beyond the state borders, the University of Maine Augusta offers fully online classes, blended or hybrid classes, classes via Interactive Television, and video conferencing with two-way video and voice communications. Students may take advantage of one, or several of these options in order to find the best way to complete their degree. Regardless of the method, students can be assured that they are receiving a quality education with ultimate flexibility.

10. Post University

Post University was founded in 1890. Since then, it has gone through many changes. They strive to offer innovative education that is flexible and forward-looking in today’s changing world. The organization is a private for-profit school that is accredited. There are over 15,000 total students, and about 7000 attend classes at the main campus or three satellite campuses. Post’s online experience is diverse and flexible; many bachelor’s degrees are offered in addition as well as MBA’s and Master’s degrees in Education and Human Services. In addition to good degree choices, Post has a generous acceptance of transfer credits, the possibility to finish bachelor’s in 18 months or master’s in 14-24 months, classes that start every 8 weeks, accelerated degrees, and fully online or blended instruction with weekend classes.

9. Peirce College

Peirce College has always been in the business of helping adults earn their degrees. Founded by Thomas May Peirce shortly after the Civil War as Union Business College, the mission of the college was to deliver a new kind of practical, business education in the post-war years. Many ex-soldiers needed training in order to enter the workforce, and the college was an answer to this problem. Dr. Peirce also offered career-oriented education to women, which was an idea well ahead of its time in 19th century America. In 1888, there were over 300 women students enrolled, something unheard of at that time. Peirce is one of the oldest accredited colleges offering a complete online degree program in the United States. With such a rich heritage and strong programs today, Peirce College establishes itself as a top college for adult education.

8. Granite State College

Granite State College is ready to work with students regardless of where they are in life. Their website is filled with success stories, for example, Kayt, a young woman in her mid-20’s who dropped out of high school. College was a terrifying prospect for her, yet she knew that she needed a college degree to become the person she wanted to be. She said, “I want others who are considering GSC to know how easy it is to start. If you work hard, and you show that you’re determined, every single person at GSC who can, is going to help you. That’s been my experience.” Kayt graduated in 2014 with a degree in elementary education and is just one of the many satisfied graduates of Granite State College. With success like this, a 100% acceptance rate, 76% of students over 25, and 77% engaged in distance learning, Granite may be a great place to start down a new road in life.

7. University of Maryland – University College

With over 90,000 students worldwide, the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is one of the largest distance learning institutions in the world. The university is open to all applicants, with a 100 percent acceptance rate for undergraduate programs, making this an ideal location for the student who wants to start over. In addition to an expansive list of distance learning classes and programs, UMUC also offers classes on campus at the Academic Center in Largo, satellite campuses in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area, throughout Maryland, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The University offers 120 academic programs including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. This expansive university is sure to have something for everyone.

6. Brandman University

Established in 1958 by Chapman University, Brandman University was originally started to provide high-quality education to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. As demand increased, Brandman grew into a university that began serving a larger and more diverse student population, primarily military and adult learners. Now Brandman offers more than 53 accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees, teaching credentials, and extended education programs. Through Brandman’s curriculum model, known as iDEAL (Instructional Design for Engaged Adult Learning), students will benefit from both the traditional classroom as well as e-learning activities. With over 25 campuses throughout California and Washington, as well as a virtual campus online, students have choice and flexibility to earn their degree as a working adult at a university that has been in the business for over 50 years.

5. Northcentral University

This fully online university serves students around the world and uniquely maintains a 100% doctoral faculty. Their “One-to-One Learning Model” enables each student to be partnered with a member of their prestigious faculty for an intimate learning experience. Furthermore, the University’s high degree of flexibility is highly favorable for working professionals, military personal, and international students who do not have to relocate to earn their online degree. Their main areas of focus are Business, Education, Health Sciences, Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology, Social Work, and Technology. Students are able to earn degrees at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral levels.

4. Thomas Edison State University

Thomas Edison State University is another educational institution that caters towards adult students. In fact, it is one of the oldest schools in the country that was designed specifically for older adults interested in pursuing higher education. They offer degrees in over 100 areas of study, such as Accounting, Cybersecurity, and Nonprofit Management. In addition, they boast an extremely high rate of student satisfaction. 95% of their 2017 undergraduates gave the University ratings of “Excellent” or “Good.” While they do have a campus located in New Jersey, students rarely visit as most of their coursework is completed online.

3. Walden University

Established in 1970 by Bernie and Rita Turner, two New York teachers, Walden University was created to provide a place for working adults to pursue doctoral degrees. The first classes took place in Naples, Florida and focused primarily on school administrators. These classes allowed students to form dissertation topics with their faculty partners before returning home to work at their respective schools while also working on their dissertations. Walden University was born small, but has since grown into a private, for-profit university with almost 50,000 students worldwide. Walden University’s headquarters is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but they have a virtual campus. Fitting the needs of adult learners, students participate in classes on a weekly basis at their convenience. Students will network with faculty and classmates exchanging ideas, insights, and experiences, with constant access to faculty via phone and email. Some academic programs also feature face-to-face academic residencies. Walden University meets the needs of the adult learner and provides an outstanding, affordable education.

2. Excelsior College

Since its founding in 1971, Excelsior College has always focused on providing greater educational opportunities to adult learners and those historically underepresented in higher education. According to their Summer 2018 report, the average age of their student body is 36.7 years old. In addition, many of their students work full-time or are involved with military service. The school’s dedication to meet students where they are, geographically and academically, makes it an ideal choice for nontraditional students. They offer an extended range of online classes in a variety of areas: Technology, Public Service, Liberal Arts, Nursing, Health Sciences, and Business.

1. Charter Oak State College

Charter Oak State College is renowned for its flexible transfer policy and online program options, ideal for older and nontraditional students. While many other institutions have credit transfer restrictions, meaning you may have to earn 30-45 more credits to finish your degree, Charter Oak honors all the credits you have earned previously. The time that has passed since you initially accrued them does not matter. They offer a variety of workforce-oriented programs in which students can earn their Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees, as well as certificate and credential programs.

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