The rise of the non-traditional college student

Posted on October 18, 2011 by


In Frederick Hess’s article from the, Atlantic, he states that a change in college tradition is presently occuring  when the traditional student hasn’t come from high school, isn’t living on campus or studying for a 4 year degree.  Statistics of this show the majority of students are adults, over the age of 30 that feel a need for a higher education but only an assoicates degree, a certificate or credential for the area of their interest. Highest enrollments in certificate programs were in the health field, manufacaturing, construction, repair and transportation. Hess calls this shift in college tradition a rise of the non-traditional student. This results after  available jobs were found that do not require a higher degree which encourages  adult part-time enrollment for a two year degree. Hess obtained statistics from the Bureau of Labor that 2/3 of the entire Labor force has less than 4 years of college. He states that half of these are employed in professional areas and a third in management positions. Hess agrees that having at least an associates degree is valuable when it increases earnings by $141 a week and criticizes institutions that are programmed only for the traditional student. He says certificate and credential programs are not considered substantiated enough for earning rewards from the institutions where adult students attend. Non-traditional students also need additional help with advising for classes that are best suited for job interests, acquiring needed skills and flexiblity in class schedules.

Since Hess believes as his article is titled, “College’s Most Important Trend is the Rise of the Adult Student,” he adds that college officals need to provide these non-traditional services for the non-tradtional student so that employers do not become discouraged and perhaps decide not to hire at all or move to a different location, even overseas.

Hess’s statistics from the Labor Bureau could be accurate but it is hard to believe when my own skills and knowledge have tripled since I’ve been in college and I haven’t been able to obtain a job. What I have run up against is that employers refuse to hire no matter how well trained I am now or was before. This is in areas of retail sales and some work as an receptionist. I firmly believe that they do not want to pay a higher wage for a higher education. Employers hire someone who will take less pay, have re-located already or cut hours drastically, as the recent economy has shown.

Last year, I  too, enrolled in a certificate program when informed that this would greatly increase my chances for a job in the area. I remain unemployed and working on a Bachelor degree, today.  I don’t think the statistics are accurate unless the majority of them are for the labor jobs Hess mentions. The professional positions appear, at least in this area, that a four year degree or higher is needed to obtain a professional job. This translates that the Traditional College student remains here for awhile longer.

Posted in: Student Life