Why It Matters

Data that identifies adult learners’ expressions of intention to enroll in college or training programs can help institutions and organizations more actively target, recruit, and support those learners who are most likely to enroll.


This Lumina-funded report calculated demographic and economic differences related to the intent of adult learners to enroll in college or training over the next two years. The report was based on a large-scale survey conducted by CollegeAPP, a data analytics service company located in La Cañada Flintridge, California.

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CollegeAPP collected 150,000 online random digit dialing responses from a survey sent to about 70 million people between January 2020 and March 2022. The survey factored in age, gender, ethnicity, income, geography, and previous education attainment. It asked, “Do you intend to enroll in any education or training programs in the next two years?” Research firm Zaback Solutions prepared the Intent Matters report.

Key findings listed in the report:

  • One-fifth of all U.S. adults said they intended to enroll in college.
  • 36% of adult Blacks, Latinos, and Indigenous said they intended to enroll in college.
  • Many individuals who intend to enroll in college will not fulfill their intention.
  • Black and Latino people were two times more likely than whites to express their intention to enroll in college or training.
  • Men were less likely than women to express their intention to enroll in college or training.
  • Individuals who earn less than a family-sustaining wage, the unemployed, and those with weak job stability were most likely to actually enroll in college or training.
  • More than 50% of learners preferred online education.
  • Individuals with some college but no degree were most likely to express their intention to enroll in college or training.
  • Those with some college but no degree who expressed intention to enroll were more likely to return to a community college, while those within this group who did not express an intention to enroll were most interested in a technical credential.


The report concluded that institutional leaders know enrollment management, recruitment strategies and priorities need to change. It was claimed that “CollegeAPP’s 150,000 surveys, paired with publicly and commercially available data sources, can model aggregate person-level, adult-learner demand data at the region, state, and neighborhood levels to understand and identify potential students and help states and higher education institutions reach students directly,” especially “students historically underserved by postsecondary structures and processes.”

It was noted that “individuals must formalize their plans by identifying education and training options that meet their needs,” and formalization processes “may be influenced by the subjective or social norms within the individual’s family, peer network, or community.” In short, potential learners “need to have the confidence, support, and belief in education to take action to enroll.”