Non-Traditional is the New Traditional

Cathy is a 56 year old grandmother of 8
and is completing her degree online through
USG eCore at Dalton State College.

Asked to picture a college student who makes up the majority population attending classes and most would describe that person as being "fresh-out-of-high-school" or in the 18-22 year old range. Perhaps up until the year 2000, that picture was (mostly) accurate. But these days, college students are older and have either not attended college or are returning after an absence. The nontraditional student now makes up 73% of all students enrolled in undergraduate programs.

The broad definition of an adult learner or "non-traditional" student is anyone who is 25 years old or older. But age is just one of the descriptors that captures an ever expanding group (some 8.4 million) of adult students who often have family and work responsibilities as well as other life circumstances that have interfered with their educational goals. 

Those who fall into the nontraditional learner category meet at least one of the following common characteristics: They
  • have delayed enrollment into post-secondary education
  • attend part time
  • are financially independent of parents 
  • work full time while enrolled
  • have dependents other than a spouse
  • are a single parent
  • have a G.E.D. or High School Equivalency certificate  

Why the growth in nontraditional student population? Many professionals realize that career growth, higher earnings and the chance to maximize their potential are either slowed or are non-existent without at college degree. 

Given that so many adults are furthering their education, the importance of the University System of Georgia's efforts to provide quality, flexible opportunities—such as distance learning, accelerated course formats, and prior learning assessment (PLA)—is profound. These programs are increasingly commonplace today, allowing for greater access and completion rates. In fact, the Lumina Foundation found that the number one factor contributing to an adult learner's persistence and achievement in Higher Education is the availability of online courses and resources.

What does this mean for those out there considering starting or returning to college later in life? It means you are not alone - you are actually in the majority right now! So brush off that thinking cap of yours and join the 8.4 million other adults who are advancing taking charge of their futures through higher education. 

Need help getting started? Georgia has a great resource for adults returning to school called Go Back. Move Ahead. Here, you can browse all of the adult-friendly programs in Georgia, and get in contact with a representative that can help you navigate the enrollment process. 



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