The Non-traditional Student: Today's Challenge in Higher Education

There are many reasons why an individual chooses not to attend college. Regardless, it is a fact that a majority of jobs on the market today require a degree or some sort of specialized skills training. For this reason, many are choosing to follow the path of education and earn their degree. But as we get older, it doesn’t necessarily get easier to add going back to school into an already packed schedule.

Today’s “Non-traditional Student” is a definite force in the education marketplace. These people are motivated but lack time, financial resources, and preparedness. Time is possibly the most difficult challenge to overcome. Many of today’s adult students are working full time, have a family, or both, which leaves little time to conform to the traditional college schedule. Because non-traditional students are typically older, they are financially independent (or lack parental financial support) and rely heavily on financial aid opportunities. Many have little to no college credit and in some cases have not even graduated from high school.

What are today’s universities doing to provide a solution? Online and adult studies programs are popping up all over the country. In order to meet the demand of our information-based society, earning a degree over the Internet is fast becoming a popular way to get a much-needed education. Online programs are flexible, affordable and more convenient than traditional degree programs. And adult studies programs offered on campuses are often delivered in an accelerated format. Moreover, university admissions departments are taking into account students’ prior, on-the-job experience as credit toward degrees.

What does this mean for today’s non-traditional student? It means there is opportunity, albeit competitive, to earn a degree and advance one’s career. Working adults have the ability to look for the right program that fits their needs. Financial aid is available for both nonprofit and for-profit universities alike. And if the MBA program close to home is full, there are more to look for online. Now that colleges and universities are recognizing and accommodating the needs for adult learners with competitive, flexible degree programs, it is the perfect time for busy adults to earn a degree.