They’re known as non-traditional students—college students over 25, often with children and real jobs—but they’re apparently increasingly common in colleges across the country. According to a piece in the (Iowa) Creston News Advertiser:
The single fastest-growing segment of the student population is the proportion of students aged 25 and older. While the total population of college students increased by 41 percent between 1970 and 2000, the population of students older than 25 boomed by 170 percent. Adult learners now make up nearly 40 percent of the overall college population, when part-time students are taken into account.
Most of these students are probably attending community colleges, a segment of American colleges that always included a great deal of older students, but that 170 percent increase indicates that something is changing in the population of American college students.
Much of this is probably fueled by the American job market, which increasingly values college degrees for hiring and promotion. Despite the fact that the cost of college keeps rising, faster than many Americans can keep up, more and more people keep going to college. This probably has to do with the fact that other options for career promotion are pretty limited.