Posted by: Gregory Linton | 10/21/2015

NCES releases data on nontraditional students

In September, the National Center for Education Statistics released demographic information on nontraditional undergraduates as part of their Web Tables series. The data were culled from students who applied for financial aid in 2011-12, so we should recognize that the data does not reflect the college student population as a whole.

As the report notes, nontraditional students are generally thought to have the following characteristics: being independent for financial aid purposes, having one or more dependents, being a single caregiver, not having a traditional high school diploma, delaying postsecondary enrollment, attending school part-time, and being employed full-time. However, the term “nontraditional” is a misnomer because 74 percent of 2011-12 undergraduates possessed at least one of these characteristics. Actually, the nontraditional student now is the student high school graduate who enters college full-time the fall semester after graduation, is dependent on his or her parents, has no dependents of his or her own, and works part-time or less.

Meris Stansbury of eCampus News has provided a helpful summary of key findings in this report. These findings show that nontraditional students differ from traditional students in significant ways. These differences should be considered by those academic leaders who are seeking to expand their offerings to a segment of the population that will keep increasing in the future. For example, online courses are more appealing to nontraditional students than to traditional students.

Source: NCES, “Demographic and Enrollment Characteristics of Nontraditional Undergraduates: 2011–12”

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