When BestColleges.com recently came out with their ranking of the 50 Best Colleges for Older Students, the staff and students at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) were pleased–but not the least bit surprised–to learn they were ranked in the top 15 out of 50 colleges and universities across the U.S.

“In 1985, IWU made a strategic decision to expand beyond our campus and to intentionally serve adult students. Over the years, we have reached into three states with 17 learning centers,” said Audrey Hahn, IWU CEO/executive vice president for non-residential education. “With the addition of online learning degree options in many different areas, we believe we have something to offer to almost every adult student seeking a college degree. We are excited to be included in the group!”

BestColleges.com identifies older students as “adults, 25 and older, who took time away from academia before beginning or continuing an undergraduate degree.” In IWU’s profile, they state “This small, private Christian college places a strong emphasis on diverse and flexible education options for adult learners, who make up nearly 70% of the student body. Students may earn certificates of professional licensure as part of the university’s adult education programs, or they can complete associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral courses of study.” Degrees in the areas of business, nursing, education, and the liberal arts are the most popular, and applications for adult learners are free and can be completed online. BestColleges also noted IWU’s admission rate of 95% and graduation rate of 64%.

IWU student Lisa Rittenhouse is a perfect example of why the program has been recognized for its success.

“I am really glad to see IWU listed as a top 50 online school. I am earning an associate degree through IWU’s online program, and I know that even though I work full-time, earning my bachelor’s degree is completely possible,” said Rittenhouse. “I’m so grateful to be able to pursue my educational goal while having a career. Taking online classes at IWU has been a rewarding experience.”

The trend of adults returning to school is on the rise. BestColleges states that between 2000 and 2011, the number of non-traditional students enrolled in undergraduate programs rose 40% and that they comprised 38% of all undergrads in 2011. Their rankings were created by compiling a list of all schools with a non-traditional student body of 25% or higher. Using their standard methodology, they narrow the list to only those schools that provide a high quality education, quantitatively speaking. To get the list to 50, they look at institutions that offer a range of degree programs at the baccalaureate level or higher.

IWU has been offering innovative programs for adults since 1985. Initially available in Marion, Indianapolis, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, IWU education centers now exist in all major cities in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, as well as online. Over 10,000 adult students are currently enrolled at IWU. Of those 10,000, over 7,000 study online, enabling many adults who work full or part-time or have other obligations to successfully complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees.