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University of Phoenix Survey Finds Time and Financial Barriers are Holding Many U.S. Working Adults Back from Pursuing Higher Education

By University of Phoenix

The University provides flexible degree offerings and locked-in tuition that make attending school more accessible for busy adults

PHOENIX, June 4, 2019 — Despite higher education attainment being linked to greater earnings potential and lower rates of unemployment,¹ less than one-third of U.S. adults age 25 or older possess a bachelor’s degree or higher.² A new University of Phoenix survey discovered that while many U.S. working adults would like to go back to school and believe that it can be helpful in providing a better life for their family, time and financial barriers are holding them back.

According to the survey, only 36 percent of U.S. working adults are very satisfied with their current level of education and nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) want to pursue more. When it comes to the benefit of higher education, 90 percent said that it is helpful in providing a better life for their children. Despite this, only 45 percent of working adults said that they would be likely to go back to school considering the realistic barriers in their life.

When asked what these barriers were, 69 percent said the financial investment and 65 percent said debt. Close behind were classes that interfere with work and life (63 percent) and the workload required (59 percent). Breaking down these barriers to higher education could lead to greater academic achievement for today’s adult learners. With no barriers in place, 80 percent of working adults said that they would be very/somewhat likely to pursue more education.

“A significant population of today’s college students is working adults returning to school and many possess at least one ‘nontraditional’ characteristic.³ They need an education that fits their life, not the other way around,” said Dr. John Woods, chief academic officer and provost at University of Phoenix. “As the student demographic changes, it is imperative that educational institutions offer curriculum in a format and modality that fit their needs. Institutions that help break down barriers to pursuing education could help encourage more working adults to pursue their educational dreams.”

Among those working adults who said that they are going to or plan to go back to school, nearly half (49 percent) of respondents said that they plan to enroll at an institution offering online programs. This decision could be influenced, in part, because of the flexibility that online programs offer that helps overcome some of the barriers to education. This plays into the criteria that workings adults are looking for from higher education providers uncovered in the survey. Those who plan to go back, but haven’t yet, wanted flexible scheduling around work and family (52 percent), financial aid support (48 percent), and the ability to take one or two classes at a time, instead of a full course load (38 percent).

“We’re seeing a rise in popularity and acceptance of universities offering online programs. While this is great for adult learners looking to return to school to enhance their education, it’s important that they make the distinction between online programs and those specifically built for working adults,” Woods said. “University of Phoenix has a 43-year history dedicated to making degree attainment a realistic goal for today’s adult learners.”

University of Phoenix offers career-relevant online and on-campus degree programs built for working adults. To pursue a degree in the time they have right now, University of Phoenix students take one five- to six-week course at a time, rather than taking multiple courses at once, and may still graduate on schedule. To help with affordability and budgeting, the University’s Tuition Guarantee locks in tuition from start to finish of a program. More information on University of Phoenix differentiators can be found at

University of Phoenix offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs, as well as professional development and individual courses, that help working adults stay ahead of workplace trends and enhance their careers. To learn more about the University’s program offerings, visit

To view the complete survey findings, please contact Cooper Nelson at

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix from March 21 to 29, 2019, among 4,004 U.S. adults ages 25-55, who are employed full-time, part-time, or self-employed. Figures for gender, age, race/ethnicity, household income, education, household size, employment status, marital status, and region were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs online and on-campus. For more information, visit