The "Traditional" Student
I am always awestruck by the number of articles about nontraditional students — when are we going to stop using the term nontraditional? How much research is necessary to confirm previous studies stating that the majority of students now fall into the nontraditional category? Needham Yancey Gulley’s recent article featured in Inside Higher Ed, “The Myth of the Nontraditional Student” scrutinizes this phenomena, and I could not applaud him more.
Rather than focus on what term to use, we should focus on how to help this population persist and cross the finish line. The majority of college marketing targets those fresh out of high school, yet we know that nearly half of undergraduate students experience life events that no longer qualify them for the ‘traditional’ student category. How can we better serve this population to support them in their endeavors of attaining a college degree?
Having completed my degree at 32, I sympathize with the frustrations adult learners face. Many of the services offered to students cater to recent high school grads. Office hours were inconveniently limited to standard business hours, scholarships for adult students were limited and prior learning options were not promoted. In fact, it was not until I was sitting at my commencement ceremony that I learned that prior learning options were available.
The real myth is that student bodies are comprised of ‘traditional’ students. There is a new reality: one where contemporary learners fill classrooms like never before. Colleges and universities can step up to do a better job of supporting these students who have new characteristics and needs.
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