Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Robert D. Holsworth


The purpose of this study is to identify the current baseline for lifelong learners (age 50 and better) focused on post-secondary education in the Commonwealth of Virginia (VA), the resulting academic services and public policy implications. While the aging research to date is overwhelmingly focused upon health issues, financial security, legislative initiatives, care-giving, and assisted living, etc., fewer studies or data are available on the increasing post-secondary continuing education that lifelong learners will likely expect to be made available to them. The educational level of the growing aging population will continue to increase. Research has repeatedly proven higher education to be a reliable predictor of continuing lifelong higher education. As proven elsewhere, lifelong learners will benefit physically from the healthy mental fitness and the learning society will benefit from the shared wealth of a lifetime of experience, talent, and community service. The very nature of the traditional withdrawn retirement is being redefined by lifelong learners in active productive retirement by those who vigorously engage in meaningful activities throughout the extended phases of their lives. Many lifelong learners continue to work full or part-time, start new careers or their own businesses, provide volunteer services in their communities and seek post-secondary continuing education into very advanced ages. This powerful graying population is an undeniably huge market as boomers control 70% of $7 trillion dollars total household worth. This researcher anticipated that limited adult education available beyond the legislated minimum requirements for adult basic literacy education is unevenly distributed among private and public agencies serving the aging. For the many relatively healthy adult learners whose attention and resources are not consumed by health and wealth concerns, their continuing education desires will not nearly be met by the small number of programs available to meet adult learners' growing educational needs. A study of academic services currently provided and projections for the academic services required in the future forecasts the educational service needs of the burgeoning adult learner population. This study outlines a baseline of adult learners' services, needs/desires, future plans and public policy choices that will face Virginia as the aging population rapidly grows.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008