Editor's Note (The View From Here)
- By Shannon O'Connor
- September 1st, 2018
It’s September, the start of the “traditional” school year. Members of the newest freshmen class are arriving on campus, moving into residence halls with their laundry baskets full of clothes, snacks, and digital devices. Those who choose to commute or live off-campus are scoping out the best bus routes, parking spots, or bike racks, and all of them are learning their way around campus or downloading an app that will help them do so. These quintessential fresh-out-of-high-school students are the predominant face of every college and university campus.
Or are they?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 40 percent of students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree programs are 25 or older. In April, the National Center for Educational Statistics stated there had been a 35 percent increase in college students aged 25 to 34 between 2001 and 2015. Between 2015 and 2026, enrollment is projected to increase 11 percent, to more than 9 million. The majority of these nontraditional students, about 5.4 million, will be attending classes part-time.
In response to the increasing number of adult learners, programs to encourage their success are growing in number, from the campus level to state initiatives. In April, Kennesaw State University’s Adult Learner Center in Kennesaw, GA, was recognized for their distinguished achievement and exemplary service by the University System of Georgia. In Tennessee, Tennessee Reconnect is Governor Bill Haslam’s initiative to help more adults enter higher education to gain new skills, advance in the workplace, and complete a degree or credential. Those are just two of a myriad of resources in place across the country to support adult learners.
The Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE) offers resources to both institutions and students to provide opportunities, academic resources, and motivational support to nontraditional students. ANTSHE has designated November 5-9, 2018, as National Nontraditional Student Week, and their website (www.myantshe.org) includes a list of ways to celebrate nontraditional students.
Learning is a life-long adventure. Two of my good friends—women who have both passed the half-century mark—recently proudly completed their degrees (one a B.A., one an M.B.A.). They couldn’t have done so without the support of the institutions who worked with and for them so that they could accomplish their dreams. Thank you for supporting all your students, traditional or otherwise, and have a good year.
This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of College Planning & Management.