10 Colleges With the Most Older Students

Ryan Lytle
October 20, 2011

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

The road to a college degree has evolved over the years. No longer is it atypical for a student to take a "gap year" between high school and his or her freshman year of college to travel, study, or volunteer. For some, this break could motivate a student to re-commit to education instead of burning out.

Among the 1,355 colleges and universities that offered freshman retention rate data to U.S. News, the average retention rate was about 75 percent. Retention rate data covers freshmen entering college from fall 2006 through fall 2009 who returned to school the following fall. This means that roughly 25 percent of freshmen did not return to college for their second year during this time period. Some of these students decide to finish their degrees later in life, perhaps after joining the workforce or the military, after starting a family, or saving money for the educational investment.

[See which colleges have the highest freshman retention rates.]

Based on 1,138 schools that provided student age data to U.S. News in a 2011 survey, about 15 percent of all undergraduates were older than 25 years of age during fall 2010. The overall number of undergrads over the age of 25 is expected to increase 35 percent by 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

While the national average may still be a small percentage of the overall student population, some schools' enrollment includes a majority of older students. Twenty-six schools that reported student age data are comprised of at least 50 percent of students who are older than 25.

Among the top 10 schools with the most older students, an average of about 71 percent of students are over the age of 25--nearly five times the national average. Having a higher percentage of older students does not ultimately mean higher retention rates, though. Among the 10 schools with the highest percentage of students over the age of 25, the average freshman retention rate is about 65 percent--compared to the 75 percent average retention rate among the schools that reported data to U.S. News.

Schools that were designated by U.S. News as Unranked were not considered for this report. U.S. News did not calculate a numerical ranking for Unranked programs because the program did not meet certain criteria that U.S. News requires to be numerically ranked.

Below are the 10 schools with the most students over 25 years of age:

School name (state) Total undergraduate enrollment Students 25 and older U.S. News rank and category
Missouri Southern State University 5,751 91% 72, Regional Colleges (Midwest)
Mid-Continent University (KY) 2,179 81% RNP*, Regional Colleges (South)
Wells College (NY) 559 79% 127, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Davenport University (MI) 9,783 67% RNP, Regional Universities (Midwest)
Mount Olive College (NC) 3,855 67% 71, Regional Colleges (South)
Regis University (CO) 5,594 67% 31, Regional Universities (West)
University of Maine--Augusta 5,074 67% RNP, Regional Colleges (North)
Upper Iowa University 5,242 65% RNP, Regional Universities (Midwest)
Post University (CT) 3,320 64% RNP, Regional Colleges (North)
Regent University (VA) 2,242 63% RNP, National Universities
Warner Pacific College (OR) 1,359 63% 26, Regional Colleges (West)

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one fourth of its ranking category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find student demographic statistics, complete rankings, and much more.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2011 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists have no influence over U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools.