A Profile of the Nontraditional College Student and Implications for Institutional Policies
Bodensteiner, James E.
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The problem. This study examined the growing number of college students outside the traditional eighteen to twenty-three year old age group often referred to as nontraditional students. For this study, nontraditional student was defined as any undergraduate student age twenty-five or older. The purpose of the study was to identify who these students were, why they were entering or returning to college, how the college experience affected their lives, and what can be done by colleges and universities to facilitate their college experience. Procedure. The data were gathered from the registrar's office and through the use of a questionnaire sent to 680 nontraditional students and returned by 404. This 59 percent return rate assured a 95 percent confidence level. Findings. Most of the nontraditional students were found to be in the twenty-five to thirty-four year old age group, married, parents and employed. The average course load was nine hours. Most were in college for career-related reasons although personal growth also ranked high. The nontraditional students indicated that they interrelated well with traditional students and their instructors and generally felt very positive about the effects of college attendance. They felt that their age and experiences caused them to have more to contribute in class than the younger students. College attendance did not seem to adversely affect their relationships with family and friends except that free time was very limited. However, the college experience of nontraditional students was found to be very different from that of their traditional age counterparts. Nontraditional students attend almost no campus events and lead very busy lives dividing their time among their jobs, families and classes. They do not enjoy the camaraderie of traditional students. Recommendations. To facilitate the college experience for these nontraditional students, institutions can simplify registration procedures, provide office hours in the evenings, schedule more evening classes, provide support groups and newsletters and increase the level of sensitivity to the unique situations of nontraditional students.