The Top 18 Colleges for Adult Learners According to Students

by | Nov 19, 2021 | Planning for College

Not every high school student moves straight into college. Some stay at home to care for a loved one, while others choose to travel the world. 

Whatever the case, many students find themselves saying college can wait.

If you’re an adult learner, choosing to go to college later in life can feel daunting. But I have good news for you. 

As a 25+-year-old adult, you’re part of the largest growing segment of college students. That means colleges and universities have evolved to meet the needs of a group eager to receive a degree.

If you’re ready to head back but don’t know where to begin, we’ve got you covered! Like you, I took a few semesters off and get how hard it is to find the right college.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of the top colleges for adult learners.

Ready to get your degree? Let’s go!

Golden Gate University

San Francisco, CA

Golden Gate University has been offering remote learning since 1998. They offer online, on-campus, and hybrid courses for students to decide what works best for them.

They were ranked #1 in 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016 by Washington Monthly for adult learners.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$16,095
Average Class Size17
** Average tuition cost is based on in-state tuition costs.

Concordia University – Saint Paul

St. Paul, MN

Concordia University offers both Associate and Bachelor’s degree programs to help busy students.

They’re partnered with multiple top colleges for adult learners within their community. If you’re a student who lives in the area and is looking to transfer, they have a partnership scholarship for you.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$22,800
Average Class SizeFewer than 20
** Average tuition cost is based on in-state tuition costs.

University of Utah

Salt Lake City, UT

The University of Utah has two different offerings to help busy students.

The first is online. UOnline is their online campus to help you get your degree without the hassle of in-person. Online programs have the same tuition for both in-state and out-of-state residents. How amazing is that?

They structure their online programs to follow standard, on-campus schedules but be prepared to pay attention to your syllabus for important dates.

The second way is with their Continuing Education and Community Engagement. If you want to take courses to learn or look to get a certification, this is perfect for you.

Continuing Ed is for anyone who wants to learn something new or develop further in their career.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$9,498
Average Class SizeFewer than 20

Fort Hays State University

Hays, KS

Fort Hays State University has over 200 online degrees and certificate programs for you to choose from.

At Fort Hays, “[they] believe everyone deserves an opportunity to earn their college degree and [they] are committed to providing innovative, affordable and high-quality online programs.”

They’ve been ranked at the top by various outlets for being the best in online degree programs. Among those rankings, they take pride in being a Military Friendly School.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$5,430
Average Class SizeFewer than 20

George Mason University

Fairfax, VA

Potomac Heights resident hall in the Shenandoah neighborhood. Photo by Evan Cantwell/George Mason University

George Mason University created OASIS, which stands for Online Adult Student Information Service, and is designed for adults who have taken college courses and are looking to finish their Bachelor’s degree.

They also created PATH, which stands for Patriot Advising Transfer Help Engine. This is to help determine courses that will qualify for transfer.

I don’t know about you, but I thought this was awesome. I’ve switched between colleges, and the only way I found out if courses were going to transfer was by paying for official transcripts to be sent to my new school. It got annoying since some classes I wanted to move didn’t qualify.

George Mason has set up two different ways to get your Bachelor’s. Bachelor of Applied Science and Bachelor of Individualized Study.

They both offer a generous transfer credit and allow you to select a concentration as your focus.

The main difference with a Bachelor of Individualized Study is that you can turn professional credentials and military experience into university coursework credit.

This is a tailored path based on your situation, and every student will have a different completion path.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$13,119
Average Class Size25-35

Bethel University

St. Paul, MN

Bethel University is a religious-based university that’s been around since 1871. They help students with a busy schedule by offering on-campus or entirely online options.

They also created a workshop to help you learn more about the application, registration process, and resources available. I always enjoy seeing when colleges make information more accessible. They are genuinely here to help you see if this is the right fit.

Even though you may be online, you’ll still have the support of students since they’re moving through the program alongside you.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$32,178
Average Class SizeFewer than 20

Union Institute & University

Cincinnati, OH

Union Institute & University is ranked one of the top online colleges for adult learners, letting you get your degree anywhere, anytime.

They also have a generous transfer credit policy that allows you to transfer up to 90 credits. Coming from someone who’s been down this road many times, this is a big deal.

Typically, universities don’t let more than four semesters’ worth of credits transfer.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$15,686
Average Class SizeUnknown

Granite State College

Concord, NH

Granite State College is focused explicitly on helping adulting students like you. Most coursework happens online, but they do have a campus.

They offer a variety of ways to go to school and finish your degree.

  • Online
  • Face to face
  • Blended
  • Hybrid
  • Intensives
  • Field-Based
  • Online Blended
  • Online Hybrid  
Average Tuition Cost per Year$9,015
Average Class SizeUnknown

Southern NH University

Manchester, NH

Southern New Hampshire University was named 2020’s Most Innovative University in the North and one of the nation’s “Best Regional Universities” by US News & World Report.

SNHU has a variety of ways they help you obtain a degree.

One of those is by helping you transfer up to 90 credits. You will know before you start what credits will transfer if you qualify for any scholarships and admission decisions.

You may also earn credit by answering yes to one of these questions:

  • Have you passed industry-recognized certifications that qualify for a course?
  • Have you worked in the field long enough for you to master a topic?

Average Tuition Cost per Year$9,650-$15,380
Average Class SizeFewer than 20

Curry College

Milton, MA

Curry College allows you to finish your degree faster than most colleges. You can complete courses in 8 weeks, which enables you to complete two courses every eight weeks and be considered a full-time student.

Like Union Institute & University and SNHU, they also allow you to transfer up to 90 credits to help speed up your degree.

They provide evening and online courses to help manage your lifestyle.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$43,270
Average Class SizeFewer than 20

City University

Seattle, WA

City University is recognized as one of the top 10 educators of adults nationwide.

They’ve created degree programs to fit your busy schedule by offering online, on-campus, or a mix of both online and onsite classes.

Like other colleges for adult learners, they also offer a performance-based option. Through work experience, you can prove you’ve developed skills that will move on to your next course.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$7,340
Average Class Size20-49

University of Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa

The University of Iowa offers 6 locations where you can go on campus to take classes, on top of providing online courses.

If you’ve never taken an online course or have struggled, the University of Iowa offers assistance to prepare you for online learning.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$9,606
Average Class SizeFewer than 20

University of Wyoming

Laramie, WY

The University of Wyoming offers a variety of ways to take their courses. From online, to on-campus, to even video and audio.

The University of Wyoming wants to make all its resources accessible for students and everyone in the community.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$6,097
Average Class SizeFewer than 20

More Top Colleges for Adult Learners

My husband stopped going to school shortly into his second year. He started working and put school to the side. He didn’t know what he wanted to major in and didn’t want to continue spending money. 

By the time he realized what he wanted to major in, he’d worked full time, had a mortgage, a car payment, and more.

He no longer had the luxury to quit or work part-time to focus on school. He started doing his research on schools that would fit his schedule, and that he’d enjoy as an adult learner.

The following are the schools he researched and considered.

Purdue University is an online school to help working adults. They offer a career assessment to help determine if you’re on a career path that fits your interests and skills.

Once you complete the assessment, it informs you of degrees to consider.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$9,992
Average Class SizeFewer than 20

My husband always hoped he would go to a well-known school. When he heard about Penn State’s online school for adult learners, he had to look into it.

One benefit is that they have flexible options for those who live in the area and those that don’t.

Another plus, they have specific scholarships for adult learners. Who wouldn’t want free money?

Average Tuition Cost per Year$7,738
Average Class SizeFewer than 20

Arizona State University has been ranked in the top 10 for best bachelor’s programs by U.S. News & World Report, 2021. They offer a variety of degrees online to help those with busy schedules.

If you work at Starbucks, ASU is the university for you. Starbucks pays 100% tuition for both part and full time for your first bachelor’s.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$13,698
Average Class SizeUnknown

Capella University is an online school that allows busy working students to work at their own pace.

Their FlexPath learning format gives you control. You can take one or two courses at a time and complete as many as you want in 12 weeks for one tuition fee.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$12,800
Average Class SizeUnknown

Western Governors University is an online school, and the one, my husband, ended up going to. WGU worked better with his schedule and how he learned.

In WGU, you take one class at a time and don’t move on to the next until you pass your current course. With my husband working full-time, he could focus on that one class and complete one to two types per month.

Another thing he liked about WGU was their flat-rate fee per term. Their terms are 6-months long, and if you complete four courses within those 6-months, you are considered a full-time student.

Because he’s getting an I.T. degree, WGU includes certifications with their degrees. If you know anything about I.T. certification prices, they can get expensive.

Average Tuition Cost per Year$6,670
Average Class SizeUnknown

To Conclude

Finding the best college as an adult learner can feel overwhelming. With so many options, knowing where to begin is daunting.

That’s where these top 18 colleges come in handy. Each one was chosen by an adult learner looking for exactly what you are in a school:

  • Flexibility
  • Freedom
  • Affordability
  • Support
  • Schedule

While you could find these options in many other colleges, these top 18 are chosen by students going back to school. And as an adult learner doing the same, this list is a great way to bypass the overwhelm and find the college that works best for you.

Need more ways to find the top colleges for adult learners, apply for scholarships, and save money faster? Check out our FREE online courses that help you get the answers you need!


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