Who are new majority learners?

Understanding New Majority Learners

Based on today’s enrollment numbers, and certainly population trends, the once thought “nontraditional” student is the new majority of learners today.

At the Lab, we understand new majority learners as learners who identify with one or more of the following.

And in doing so, it is critical that we acknowledge that identity is complex and nuanced, intersectional, and fluid—the lived experience of any one of us can never be reduced to that of a single part of our identity at any given time. We call out new majority learners because, for learners who identify with any of the following, we know and see through our work that they are often excluded in the design of new and existing programs and offerings.

+ learners who are a person of color, specifically Black, indigenous, or Latinx

+ learners who speak English as a second language (is an ESL learner)

+ learners who are an immigrant to the US, or the child of immigrant parents/caregivers

+ learners who are undocumented

+ learners who are low income, living in poverty, unhoused, or experiencing basic needs (housing, food) insecurity

+ learners who have enrolled in a higher ed program at 22-years

+ learners who are currently or were formerly incarcerated

+ learners who live with a disability or are neurodivergent

+ learners who are the first one in their family to attend a college or university

+ learners who do not have a high school diploma

+ learners who can only attend college part-time (due to life or financial circumstances)

+ learners who work part- or full-time

+ learners who are transfer students

+ learners who are financially independent for financial aid purposes

+ learners who have dependents other than a partner/spouse

+ learners who are veterans or active duty members

+ learners who are transgender, genderqueer, or gender nonbinary

To us at the Lab, the term new majority learners serves as a reminder of the responsibility that each of us have to directly engage with learners in our communities to better understand their lives, perspectives, intersectional identities, strengths, goals and hopes for the future, and barriers that they’ve encountered in their education and career journeys.

This understanding needs to serve as the foundation for all education redesign efforts in order to effectively offer new majority learners the opportunities they deserve to create the futures they want for themselves.

At the Lab, we define equity as:

When economic, resource, and opportunity gaps across the learn-to-work ecosystem are closed, and in turn, outcomes are not predictable based on someone’s identities.

– Adapted from Creative Reaction Lab

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