RACINE — The average age of Gateway Technical College students has been dropping.
“It definitely is a trend to younger people, coming directly out of high school or perhaps choosing not to do any post-secondary (immediately after high school) and now changing their minds,” said Jayne Herring, Gateway’s marketing and communications director.
The average age of Gateway’s full- and part-time post-secondary students has dropped each year since the 2009-10 school year, from 28.8 average years that year to 27.2 this past school year, according to Herring. Gateway enrolled 13,943 post-secondary students in the last academic year at its campuses in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties.
The change in the average age has a lot to do with the economy and with Gateway’s efforts to recruit more recent high school graduates, she said.
More older adults attended Gateway when the recession was at its peak.
“We were getting a lot of older adults many years out of school who were returning as their companies were closing and moving operations out of the country, which would qualify them for federal training funds,” Herring said. “That drove a really high number of people to Gateway to up-skill or do a complete career change. That brought our average age up fairly high for us.”
But as the economy began rebounding and federal funds for retraining dried up, that average age started to decrease, Herring said, adding that at the same time Gateway also expanded high school recruitment efforts like its College Connection program.
The program sends college coaches into high schools to help students with college planning, whether in assemblies or one-on-one. The number of coaches has gone from one working in six schools in 2011 to four coaches who will be working in 22 schools this fall, according to Herring.
Students don’t have to be interested in Gateway to get help from a College Connection coach, but students that are interested get additional aid when it comes to filling out Gateway’s application and arranging campus visits, Herring said.
She added another contributor to the average age drop likely has to do with more families recognizing that technical colleges can prepare students for in-demand careers and that Gateway has solid transfer agreements with traditional four-year universities.
“Their child can start with Gateway, taking classes that have been accepted by both institutions as having the same rigor, at a more affordable tuition,” Herring said. “Once completing their Gateway degree or certificate, they transfer to the four-year college.”
Gateway students’ average age
2012-13 school year: 27.2 years old
Post-secondary students enrolled full or part time are counted in Gateway’s average age calculations. High school students studying at Gateway are not.
SOURCE: Jayne Herring, Gateway’s marketing and communications director
Correction: This article initially included incorrect information on the number of post-secondary students who attend Gateway Technical College. Gateway enrolled 13,943 post-secondary students in the last academic year. The error has been corrected above.