How colleges and universities can support adult learners navigating a changing world

Posted: May 01, 2024 | Word Count: 705

The world is always changing — for better or for worse — but the last few years have transformed society rapidly. Handling these changes in current responsibilities can be incredibly overwhelming and for some people, it has resulted in poor mental health.

This May, Mental Health America is observing Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and reducing the stigma surrounding mental behavioral health issues, with the theme, “Mental Health in a Changing World.”

The month’s theme could not come at a more opportune time, given the prevalence of mental illness in the U.S. The National Council for Mental Wellbeing found that one in five adults in the U.S. experienced mental illness in 2021. Of those adults, 47% received treatment.

While mental illness can impact anyone, adult learners who are balancing their personal lives with professional and educational pursuits need special attention.

Balancing life, school and mental well-being

Adult learners account for more than 24% of the 12.8 million enrolled students pursuing an undergraduate degree during the period, according to a survey by The Best Schools. These students face challenges not typically experienced by traditionally aged learners (18-24).

Oftentimes, adult learners must juggle their education and existing professional responsibilities, as more than two in three adult learners in 2022 were employed either full- or part-time while pursuing their degrees. Making time for education can be difficult, and some students are forced to choose between completing an assignment and receiving a steady paycheck.

Family obligations are another area in which adult learners differ from their traditional counterparts. The survey found that nearly half of older learners who enrolled in spring 2020 reported they had dependent children. Only about 3% of students 18-24 reported the same.

Managing school, work and family is challenging, and even more so in a changing environment. That’s why it’s crucial now more than ever that adult learners receive mental health support from their educational institutions.

How higher education institutions can help

Colleges and universities have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in the mental well-being of their adult learners.

“The role mental health support and academic resources play in the personal and professional success of adult learners cannot be overstated,” says Agnam Memeti, DeVry University’s chief enrollment and student support officer. “Higher education institutions must find ways to create an environment that fosters mental health awareness and promotes well-being for all students, including adult learners.”

The majority of DeVry students are at least 26 years old and more than half are parents supporting children and other dependents. With so many adult learners, it’s no surprise that the university is proactive in supporting adult learners’ mental health and well-being. DeVry provides them with academic support, mental health resources and flexibility scheduling that they require due to their busy lives balancing work, school and family.

For example, the DeVry CARE Formula demonstrates the institution’s commitment to student success. All students are provided with a personalized support team that includes a student support advisor and career advisor. Students can also receive support through the StudentLinc program, which offers an array of emotional well-being and life-balance resources and support whenever and wherever needed free of charge.

Through StudentLinc, students can receive help addressing everyday issues through short-term counseling from licensed clinicians available 24/7, 365 days a year; therapy via text with licensed counselors Monday through Friday; and digital group support via live sessions hosted by licensed counselors. Other resources available include training, and referrals to help address challenges like child or elder care, adoption, pet care, home repair, education and housing.

If a student isn’t sure what assistance they need, they can access a Mental Health Navigator to receive personalized guidance for program support and resources. Beyond mental health support, StudentLinc also provides free legal consultations with a local attorney, consultations with financial experts and more via phone, the web and mobile apps.

“Mental health isn’t a one-size-fits-all journey,” adds Memeti. “At DeVry, we want to make sure that all our students, whether traditional or adult learners, have the resources they need to complete their education while prioritizing their well-being.”

To learn more about the ways DeVry University supports all students, visit

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