Defining, Recruiting and Supporting Nontraditional Students

Non-traditional Students
Defining, Recruiting and Supporting
Wendolyn D Davis
Assistant Director/Transfer Student Services
John VanElst
Program Manager
The Proposal
Research from the early 90's through today the nontraditional
student has been defined.
This population makes up a growing number of students at the two
year and four year institutions, and present with different needs
than traditional students.
Being able to adequately define this student, recruit from this
population and then provide specific unique supports to them will
increase the likelihood of degree attainment.
Continued collaboration between two year and four year
institutions in terms of streamlining transferring will also impact
graduation rates for both types of institutions.
This session will present academic research and trade information
that describes (1) the push to address this population of students,
(2) how to best recruit and serve them, (3) the types of
programs/services that are beneficial to students and institutions,
(4) options that can be cost effective in existing programs, and (5)
opens the floor for professionals to share what they have in place,
are planning, what has worked, and what has not.
Non-traditional Student?
Delayed Enrollment
No High School Diploma
Part-time Student
Caring for Dependents
Single Parent
National Center for Education Statistics
To What Extent…
• Minimally nontraditional: Students with one
nontraditional student characteristic
– Generally an older student
– Made up 13 – 15% of the undergraduate population
• Moderately nontraditional: students with two to three
of the nontraditional student characteristics
– Generally older, independent, and part time student
– Made up 25 – 31% of the undergraduate population
• Highly nontraditional: students with four or more
nontraditional characteristics
– Generally older, independent, attending part-time, with
– 2/3 either had dependents or worked full time
– ¼ were single parents
• “According to the Current Population Survey (CPS), in
2011 about 41 percent of full-time undergraduate
students and 74 percent of part-time undergraduate
students ages 16 to 24 years old worked in addition to
being enrolled in a postsecondary institution.” The
Condition of Education 2013
• 18% of these same full-time students reported working
20 – 34 hours; 6% full time (35+ hours)
• 28% of these same part-time students reported
working 20 – 34 hours; 33% full time
• In total 41% of full-time undergraduate students
reported working in addition to being enrolled in a
postsecondary institution; 74% of part-time
undergraduate students reported working
Nontraditional and Transfer
• 41.2% transfer from 2 year public to 4 year
• 60.8% of those who transferred from a 2 year
public went to a 4 year institution. (50.2% of
transfers from 2 year private npo; 40.6% of
transfers from 2 year private fpo)
• These numbers don’t include students who
completed a degree
• These numbers do include students who
“transferred” to a community college for
summer courses and may have returned to a
4 year (counted as reverse transfers)
The Push for Nontraditionals
• Rapid growth experiences in this population (Stenno, et
al, 2009)
• The majority of students would be considered
• Present with unique needs that could assist other
students that may become nontraditional while
• For profit enrollment, although declining, has shown
this population has a strong interest in degree
attainment when flexibility is included in the process.
• Impacts completion and degree attainment
• Will allow higher education institutions to assist
students before they fail or leave
• Family Obligations
• Financial Obligations/Lack of Financial Resources to pay for
• Employment/Time for courses
• Advisors/Campus Support available only during daytime
(working) hours
• Disbelief in ability to complete/succeed
• Culture Shock (including transfer shock)
• Fear of rejection/stigmatization of status
• Disbelief in ability to complete/succeed
• Not enough support services geared towards their needs
• Unclear path to degree completion (timelines)
• Transfer credit/articulation mismatch
• Not becoming part of Campus life and campus culture
• Has to address stigma that may be attached/perceived
• Has to address ways to achieve a goal
• Has to have a appeal specific to nontraditional students –
should not seem like an alteration of recruitment for other
• Require reasonable and achievable pathways to completion
• Requires realistic timelines for completion
• Has to include resources that nontraditional students can use
• May need to include some nontraditional pathways – ways to
achieve goals
• Must be customer oriented – customer friendly
• Has to reach nontraditional students where they are and in
places they frequent
Supports Needed
• Clear pathways to degree completion
• Clear communication between institutions, if
• Connections and support systems to address unique
• Campus programs and organizations that will
encourage participation in campus life
• Consistent advising connections to avoid campus
culture shock and/or academic/coursework difficulties
• Requires addressing hurdles, tools, tips and supports to
address them
• May require coaching/training to transition from one
academic environment to another.
Best Practices
• Nontraditional flexibility
• Evening/ Weekend availability
– Courses
– Advisor/Counselors
– Support Services
Increased distance learning/blended courses*
Customer service oriented approach*
Ease in transfer process*
Coaching and Advising
Prior learning credit*
Include non-traditonal students in the University
Highlighted Programs
• CMU STEP Program
• CMU New Office for Student Services
• GRCC Pathways to Prosperity
• Michigan Works PATH
• JET Program
• Johnson, B., Stenmo, A., and Goren, E. (2009). 10 best
practices for Non-traditional student recruitment: A
guide for post-secondary schools competing for nontraditional students. Presented by Greenwood & Hall at
the AACRAO Conference 2009. Retrieved from
• *Cooper, B. (2006). Changing demographics: Why
nontraditional students should matter to enrollment
managers and what they can do to attract them. SEM
Source. AACRAO Consulting. Retrieved from
Group Discussion
Contact Information
John VanElst,
Program Manager
Grand Rapids Community College
[email protected]
Wendolyn D. Davis,
Assistant Director of Transfer Student Services
Central Michigan University
[email protected]

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