TWO and a half years ago, Kristine Rose enrolled full time at Mount Holyoke College and crammed her belongings into a 12-foot-square room. She arrived on the campus in South Hadley, Mass., as a Frances Perkins scholar, a program established more than 30 years ago for women beyond traditional college age who sought an undergraduate degree. All bring previously earned college credit; Ms. Rose transferred in 57 of the 128 credits required for graduation. In May, just shy of her 49th birthday, she expects to receive her diploma with a major in anthropology and a minor in English. For the onetime high school dropout, who waited tables, taught preschool and worked as a commercial account manager for an insurance company, her motivation for pursing a degree was simple. “I wanted to create more life chances,” she said. As the economic benefits of having a college degree become better known, the number of full-time adult learners — those over 24 — is growing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, increasing more than 8 percent to over 2.5 million in 2011 (the last year for which statistics are available) from 2.3 million in 2009. Some are veterans eligible for benefits under a post-9/11 G.I. Bill.