Many people these days are what are known as non-traditional students. These students often work their way through college and many are parents and professionals returning to school after being away for a long time. With some research I started asking myself, why are there an increasing number of non-traditional students? With there being so many non-traditional students can we still call them non-traditional? Do non-traditional students have an advantage over traditional students who live on campus and complete their bachelor’s degrees in four years? It turns out there are a variety of advantages and disadvantages to being a non-traditional student. And with the increase in number of students who are non-traditional, there might be a change to how we look at higher education.
So what exactly is a non-traditional student? An article from the site “youcandealwithit.com” says this, “The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has identified seven characteristics that are common to nontraditional students. To be considered a nontraditional undergraduate, you:
Do not immediately continue your education after you graduate from high school
Attend college only part time
Work full time (35 hours or more per week)
Are financially independent
Have children or dependents other than your spouse
Are a single parent
Have a GED, not a high school diploma
How many of these characteristics do you have? Believe it or not, 75% of all undergraduate students have a least one of these characteristics and are thus "nontraditional" in one way or another.
Among students with only one nontraditional characteristic, part-time attendance is the most common (36%), followed by full-time employment (23%) and delayed enrollment (23%).
Among students with more than three nontraditional characteristics, having a dependent is the most common (80%).” (youcandealwithit)
Some of these people are 50 years old. “Nearly 388,000 students the age of 50 and older were enrolled in community colleges in 2009…” (Memberg). With such a variety of students attending college these days it makes sense for there to be such a diverse selection of institutions offering higher education from small community colleges to large universities and technical institutes. There really is a right college for any person’s needs.
One of the most common characteristics among non-traditional students is that many of them are working while they attend college. They could be working to support a family and pay their tuition or they could be working just to earn some extra spending money. No matter what the reason is, having a job takes up time that could be otherwise used for school work. Traditional students typically don’t have this problem as they are fully focused on their studies and are not obligated to feed their families or pay any bills. So does this mean that non-traditional students who work while earning their degrees have a disadvantage? The answer is not quite. There are actually some advantages to working while earning a degree. “A paycheck is just one of the many benefits of a college job.” (Wallick). S. H. Wallick wrote an article on Yahoo titled, “7 Benefits of Working While in College in Addition to a Paycheck.” These were her findings:
1. Many students leave college with a mountain of debt as well as a diploma, debt that may take many years to repay. Working while in college could help to limit how much you have to borrow to fund your education and leave you with a smaller debt load on graduation day.
2. A college job could help you to develop valuable time management and organizational skills and improve your ability to focus and concentrate. Coordinating work and study can be challenging, but it can also pay off by forcing you to learn techniques to use your time as productively and efficiently as possible.
3. Depending on the nature of your college job, you may learn new skills that will come in handy in school and/or in the workplace