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Adult education, broadly conceived, encompasses the basic, secondary, and postsecondary education of individuals who are older than traditional students or who have social roles (e.g., parenthood, work) that are more consistent with adulthood than with adolescence or youth. Adult education is motivated by educational philosophies on the value of an educated citizenry and the individual economic returns to continued education. Adults are a large and growing segment of secondary and postsecondary education. Adult learners have different objectives, challenges, and opportunities compared with traditional students. These differences have implications for every area of education policy and finance, from curriculum and program development to accountability and budgeting.

In the modern-day United States, secondary adult education is primarily focused on providing diplomas and equivalent credentials to individuals who have ...

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