Returning to Learning: Conversations with Nontraditional Students

Returning to Learning: Conversations with Nontraditional Students

Marsha Black Chen (The Mico Social Sciences College, Kingston, Jamaica)
DOI: 10.4018/IJAVET.2015070104
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This paper begins to address the question- can institutions of higher learning assume homogeneity? Conversations had with returning college students, concluded that an emerging group has increased dramatically in numbers at the college level. This new student profile includes those who: are noticeably older, study part-time, work full-time, are married or divorced with children, and have a lot more responsibility than the average younger college student. Such a population is the nontraditional student. Consequently, higher education has had to think of ingenious ways to accommodate this particular niche, the nontraditional student who adds much diversity to the college campus. This qualitative study yielded results, which, indicated that nontraditional students are committed to their education because of the support systems and services in place, the engagement, and the integrative experience the college affords them.
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Problem Statement

The educational route of a traditional–aged student who typically enters college right after high school, not in response to a life transition or event, but simply as a next step in their educational career, counters that of the route of a nontraditional student. The demographics have changed, and adults are participating in educational endeavors in ever increasing numbers. Therefore, it will be essential for educators and administrators to develop a thorough understanding of nontraditional students in order to cater to their educational experience. Furthermore, the diversity these learners bring to colleges and universities upon entering the classroom to seek knowledge, higher education institutions need to be cognizant of the relevance and importance of this particular niche. Gaining skills, earning a degree and personal enrichment are important considerations in the nontraditional student decision to enroll (The National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). Therefore, to evaluate the educational experience and the connection between student support services and nontraditional students is paramount, as often times, higher education institutions caters more for the traditional student compared to the nontraditional student. The myriad of experiences brought to the classroom by these nontraditional students, therefore creates a diverse atmosphere on college campuses.

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