More than 36 million adults in the U.S. can’t read above a third grade level. If we include all adults who qualify as low-skilled or lacking basic math and literary abilities, that number jumps to 93 million. That means the adult learning market represents roughly the population of New York, Michigan and Minnesota combined. To put it even more into perspective, that’s more than double the total enrollment of public and private colleges and universities in the U.S.

Of these 36 million, only 11 million are currently serviced by the public and private education system. It’s no surprise that adult learners are often overlooked as discussions about K-12 education dominate headlines. Consequently, entrepreneurs and investors remain focused on building solutions for K-12 and higher education – leaving adult learners even farther behind.

While $10 billion is spent on adult learning programs today, only $200 million of that is earmarked for digital learning materials. Studies show that adult learners need more accessible and convenient options to participate in advancing their own education.

The Economic Impact of Growing Skills Gaps

Employers need adults to have more skills, too. Especially as industries such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare and hospitality rely upon stronger literacy, digital literacy and English as a second language skills to strengthen their respective businesses.

Low-skilled adults earn lower wages, face poorer health conditions and are far less likely to advance in their careers. Economic and labor trends signify a growing need for policymakers to think differently about how they provide education. Today’s employers remain desperate for solutions, and more companies have begun to invest in lower-level adult education.

A Market Ripe for Innovation

Collectively, these statistics suggest that the U.S. is in need of a more wide-reaching adult education solution. Adult education program administrators and practitioners are enthusiastic about the potential for technology to fill the existing gap. With up to 75 percent of adult education students owning smartphones and 80 percent citing consistent access to computers and internet, the market is ripe for change.

In fact, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which is the primary adult education law in the U.S., now requires integration of technology and digital skills in its funded programs. Due to this, despite tight budgets for instructional materials, digital’s share of the wallet is expected to grow exponentially – especially as demand for print materials slows.

These measures will not only help students learn, but will also allow administrators and state agencies to better measure progress of the programs in place.

These new adult education programs will be more likely to succeed if they use blended curriculums designed to address the unique needs of low-skilled learners. This includes combining short lessons with visualization, increasing learner-instructor and peer connections, more accessible support and better integrated content and apps that address soft skills, job skills, language skills and basic skills. The technologies offered also must allow for reuse and transfer of seats among students.

CuroGens Learning believes in teaching individuals to become lifelong learners, not just good test takers. Utilizing personalized learning environments that enable adult students to study only what they don’t already know, our solution promotes increased engagement and newfound interest in school. We are committed to making a positive impact on the individual student’s overall learning experience and outlook. To learn more about CuroGens Learning, contact us at