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ACHE 2014

October 27–29, 2014

Las Vegas, Nevada

Addressing the Challenges Facing Nontraditional Students at a Public Historically Black University

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 10:45 AM–11:05 AM PDT
Flash Session 4
Session Description

The existence of adult students has increased on postsecondary campuses during recent years and there are several signs that a significant percentage of the undergraduate student body is composed of these “nontraditional” students. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2009) shows that 38% of the 18 million college students enrolled in 2007 were 25 years of age or older (NCES, 2009). Prior to 2000, the student population at postsecondary institutions had consisted of single, residential, full-time, and 18-24 year-old individuals (American Council on Education, 2006; McCraw & O’Malley, 1999). The traditional image of the college student is being confronted by a different reality. In the information-driven U.S. economy a college degree has become a progressively significant qualification in the market, both for new and currently employed persons in the workforce.

Many employed adults who are searching for success in the current financial climate are pursuing a postsecondary education in growing numbers, and they are facilitating a shift of a new majority amid undergraduate students at colleges throughout the United States. Adult students are acknowledged as part of a larger population characterized as nontraditional (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), 1999). Since the number of nontraditional students in higher education is rising, institutions will need to provide flexible instructional delivery systems to meet the demanding schedules of the working student (Chu & Hinton, 2001). According to Merriam (2008), adult learning theory is in a much different place than in 2001. Researchers such as Merriam began to recognize that there is more than just cognitive processing involved in adult learning.

In this time of economic hardship, a larger number of nontraditional students have begun to return to college to earn a degree. The changing needs of the labor market, desires to earn promotions, and needs for better paying jobs are factors that will play into this decision. Many of these adult learners will regrettably seek degrees in educational systems built for traditional students. It will often be beneficial to these students to choose a nontraditional path because they work, are heads of households, have children, and have responsibilities outside of their commitment to a degree-seeking program. Institutions of higher education do focus on the matriculation of traditional students; however, the needs of a nontraditional student differ from those of a traditional, 18-22 year-old. Unlike their younger counterparts, the nontraditional student is faced with more pressing life issues that could potentially stifle their college matriculation. Many institutions, especially urban higher education institutions, have students who come from an array of backgrounds. With urban universities existing in densely populated regions, they will be a need to be equipped to better serve the nontraditional populations that reside in the metropolitan areas.

Nearly 54 million of the nation’s adults lack a college degree with 34 million having never attended college (Lumina, 2007). So, universities are presented with the option to modify the demographics of institutions of higher education. This study has revealed that these students, most of whom often attend school part-time, are a part of an increasing changing demographic in American education, and those numbers are expected to increase. In order to serve this population, the necessary support services must be in place. Supporting a nontraditional student leads to his or her successful matriculation in a higher level degree-seeking program. The success of these nontraditional students is important for their communities, families, and even to the health of the nation (Lumina, 2007).

This presentation is based on data collected as a result of the 2012 dissertation, Factors Influencing the Selection of Course Delivery Methods by Nontraditional Students. The focus of the presentation will be on the fourth research question: “What challenges do nontraditional students face when they decide to return to school?” The presenter will share the responses of the participants and then discuss some of the methods that are being used to meet the needs of nontraditional students at a HBCU located in the southeastern region of the United States. Participants will be invited to share similar experiences and strategies being used at their respective institutions in a roundtable format and will engage in discussion focused on the areas of nontraditional students’ advising needs, class scheduling, fiscal needs, and support services.

Session Focus
Post-traditional Students
Student / Client Support Services
Session Audience
Program Directors
Program Staff
Student Services Providers

Primary Presenter

Carlos Wilson, Jackson State University
Contact information; 601-432-6649; 601-327-9930

Brief Bio

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