The New Face of Today’s College Student

todays student

Remember how college used to be? Classrooms filled with traditional wide-eyed teenagers, ready to conquer the world. If you visit a college campus now, you’d see a much different student demographic. According to data from the U.S. Education Department, almost 40% of today’s college students are older than 25 years of age, and nearly 20% of them work full time. The student once classified as “non-traditional” – older students, with families and jobs, is now emerging as the new face of today’s typical college student.

Portrait Of The Once Traditional College Student
The traditional college student of years past was between the ages of 18 and 21. They enjoyed four years in a brick and mortar academic setting and lived in a dorm room or campus housing. Financially dependent on mom and dad, they rarely worked or knew the cost of their education. They focused primarily on frat parties, “finding themselves” and clocking classroom hours in exchange for college credits. The goal was to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree before the age of 25. The motivation was upon graduation; their degree would enable a smooth transition into their chosen profession.

But college tuition skyrocketed, parents scrambled to cover the costs and student loan debt reached an all time high. In 2014 about 70 percent of college graduates had student debt averaging $33,000. Students who set out to conquer the world graduated only to find themselves drowning in debt and grossly underemployed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs is nearly 71 percent higher than it was a decade ago. High student debt levels coupled with low wages has resulted in severe economic consequences for “traditional” college students. Causing enrollment among traditional students to drop.

Non-Traditional Is The New Traditional
On the flip side, others chose an alternative path after high school. Some choose the military, took a full-time job or traveled. Or maybe they had started their studies at a community college but never had the opportunity to finish. Whatever the reason, no matter the road, there has been an influx of these students, adults, 25 years and older,”non-traditional,” students finally making their way back to college.

Rich in life experience, these students are usually juggling roles as caretaker, parent, spouse and full-time employee. Flexibility and convenience are paramount when it comes to their education and online learning is the perfect fit.  Online degree programs offer guilt-free education and allow adult students to go mobile in their studies by utilizing  lunch breaks, weekends, and after the kids go to bed to go to class.

Some like Kristofer King, who had the realization that what got him through his 20s was probably not be enough, in terms of education. Kristofer had passed on pursuing his bachelor’s degree after graduating from community college, to start making a decent living. But then at the age of 30, as a father, husband and manager for a national telecommunications corporation, he felt it was time.

“After transferring my community college credits, I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Management completely online while still balancing family and career,” said King. “I chose Patten University because it was affordable and allowed me to back to school on my schedule. work at my own pace. The courses directly related to my responsibilities at work, and thanks to my company’s education reimbursement program and Patten’s low-cost tuition, my tuition and fees were fully covered.”

The wide-spread adoption of tuition assistance / reimbursement programs by employers has enabled so many like Kristofer to make finally earning a college degree a reality. Typically part of human resources, employees are given the opportunity to earn their degree at the expense of the company. Therefore, avoiding the need for student loans or debt.

The dream of college education with career advancement and higher pay is now within reach for so many working adults. Advances in technology, employer tuition assistance and affordable online degree programs are inspiring so many “non-traditional” students to return to school, thereby changing the face of today’s typical college student.


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