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Posted by Sarah Roche on August 1, 2011
What is a non-traditional student? The answer may surprise you.
It certainly surprised me. In compiling my survey for non-traditional participation in campus organizations I worked with the Continuing Education & Outreach office to finalize our definition of a non-traditional student. We used the definition created in a 1996 study by the National Center for Education Statistics. The study states that non-traditional students had at least one of the following attributes :
 National Center for Education Statistics. “Special Analysis 2002 Nontraditional Undergraduates”, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Accessed 18 March 2009.
I don’t know about you, but I found this surprising. Age isn’t a factor in this list. I was under the impression that age was the most apparent determination of non-traditional student standing. Since I decreased my work hours to part-time while I attend classes, there is only one item on this list that categorizes me as non-traditional. But then, the more I thought about it, maybe age shouldn’t be as much a factor in non-traditional student standing. After all, since I have no children or dependents, my lifestyle mirrors that of a traditional student in many ways. My time is mostly my own and although I have financial obligations many traditional students wouldn’t have, school is my first priority. A young mother attending classes and working would fit the age group of traditional students, but certainly not the lifestyle. So, it seems, age isn’t the most important factor in determining non-traditional student status. It doesn’t even rank.
What do you think? Does this list surprise you at all? Does it change your opinion of non-traditional student? Does it change your status or the status of someone you know? Let me know your responses in the comments below.