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Going Back to School: a Bulletin Poll

The economic recession and high unemployment may lead people to consider going back to school to improve their employment opportunities. In order to gauge attitudes of the 50+ population regarding going back to school, AARP commissioned a national survey during the summer of 2009.

Key findings revealed:

  • A minority of Americans aged 50 and older indicates a likelihood of returning to school. Respondents indicating they are likely to return to school tend to be younger and have some college education.
  • The most frequently mentioned reason for going back to school is to sharpen skills that might help on the job (47%), followed by going back to school for pleasure, for example wanting to learn about new topics (39%).
  • Thirty percent of those indicating they would return to school think they will go to a community college.
  • The degree of importance placed on learning new skills varies by age, education, and race. Younger respondents aged 50-64 are more likely to say learning new skills is important than older respondents aged 65 and older (35% versus 14%).
  • More than half of respondents (57%) say the last time they enrolled in classes was more than 15 years ago.


The telephone survey was conducted for AARP by ICR, an independent research company. Interviews were conducted from July 22 to August 2, 2009, among a nationally representative sample of 1,006 respondents aged 50 and older. For more information, contact Teresa Keenan at 202-434-6274.

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