The rising number of “non-traditional” students seeking higher education presents significant challenges for many U.S. colleges and universities aiming to recruit and enroll them, according to a webinar presented by Inside Higher Ed on Thursday.
The webinar, “Educating Non-Traditional Students, examined the changing demographics of college students in the U.S., as well as some barriers faced by non-traditional students and ways colleges and universities can better address their needs.
According to census data presented in the webinar, there has been a 13.9 percent increase in overall higher education enrollment in the U.S., with female and part-time students outpacing male and full-time students. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) also show that students ages 25 and older make up 35 percent of all postsecondary students and 54 percent of students ages 25 to 29 are full-time students.
NSC data also show that 31 million students can be considered “almost completers,” having been enrolled in higher education in the last two decades without earning a degree, including four million students who completed two years of school without earning a degree.
This shows a “tremendous challenge to American higher education because it suggests that lot of people saw some value in enrolling … and left” without a degree, IHE Editor Scott Jaschik said during the webinar.
IHE Editor Doug Lederman said that there is a growing number of institutions looking to serve the non-traditional populations of students for the first time but they may face the biggest challenges because they do not have the programs and services these students need.
Jaschik and Lederman discussed several barriers that prevent non-traditional students from enrolling in higher education, including:
There are many strategies colleges and universities can take to better recruit and enroll non-traditional students, including designing financial aid and loan programs to meet their concerns and needs and to reflect the value of higher education as it relates to its cost. Colleges should also consider programs and services they currently offer and how they are different from what non-traditional students want and need. For example, many non-traditional students looks for career-oriented programs that have flexible schedules and services that will help them complete a degree more quickly than younger students. In addition, many students benefit from online instruction or competency instruction which “relates very directly to the needs of the adult student learner,” Lederman said.
Publication Date: 9/12/2014