July 16, 2012

Non-Traditional Students

Nontraditional students - adults who attend college part-time - are a large and growing segment of American higher education. They figure into the “completion agenda” (or lack of completion) that has gotten more national attention the past year.

According to some news reports, it seems that many colleges do not really track the graduation or retention rates of these adult students. Why? Currently no one requires it.

According to a survey conducted jointly by InsideTrack, a student coaching service, and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association Center for Research and Consulting.
77 percent of institutions do not know the graduation rate for their adult students.

But that may change. Why? Because someone may require it. It might end up being the federal government that wants that information. But, for now, it might start with accreditors.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is in the process of requiring institutions to report detailed information about those two key measures of student success, for all student populations, including the nontraditional ones.

Another finding from the survey looks pretty bad for the colleges. Adult students “tend to be viewed as cash cows” by colleges and 43 percent of colleges said their central administration values the money that adult programs bring in, but that the administration provides little support to those programs. So, colleges keep enrolling adult students, even if those adult students aren’t earning degrees.

This group is also rather difficult to track. They often “stop out” multiple times, and move from community college to 4-year institutions several times. It may take this adult student eight years or more to earn a bachelor’s degree, and that's a number the degree-presenting institution doesn't really want to tout.

cross-posted from Serendipity35 

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