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“Non-Traditional” Students the New Majority

The demographic profile of students at US colleges and universities has changed dramatically in the past decade. The majority of college students have shifted to an older, more diversified pool who are seeking degrees while juggling other responsibilities, such as work and family commitments. They are known as non-traditional students and are now the majority of students attending college.

Certain characteristics of “non-traditional” students:

  • 25 or older when they finished their bachelor’s degree
  • Received a GED or equivalent
  • Employed full time while in school
  • Enrolled as a part-time student while pursuing a degree
  • Financially independent of parents

According to a 2012 report by the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, non-traditional students have been inadequately served by higher education institutions, despite their growing numbers. A study by US News showed that non-traditional students cited a lack of scheduling flexibility and personalized pace of instruction as variables that negatively affected their learning experience.

Ways higher education institutions are adapting to “non-traditional students”:

  • Increase in online learning programs
  • Accelerated Course Formats
  • Wider availability of services and scheduling
  • Multiple options for financial aid and billing

As jobs and careers continue to change, so too will the integration of programs that offer multiple options of learning to the evolving student in higher education.

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