The conventional view is that Americans have come to appreciate the importance of continuing education in today's fast-changing economy. Indeed, from 1978 to 1993, the number of U.S. 25-to-64-year-olds attending school (primarily colleges and universities) soared by 45%, or 1.8 million.
Unfortunately, most of the influx reflects demographic trends. While the adult-enrollment rate did edge up, to 4.4% over the 15-year period, the Labor Dept. says 70% of the jump in students resulted simply from the aging of baby boomers. If there's any trend toward lifelong learning, it seems to be occurring among adult women. Their enrollment rate jumped by more than a percentage point, to 5.1%, while the male enrollment rate slipped to 3.7%.