Letter to the Editor: Non-Traditional Students Are Here to Stay

Posted on 27 August 2014 by admin

Non-traditional students are not the exception anymore

Letter to editorI am a non-traditional student. At one point we were the exception, but not any longer. Currently, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, we make up one-quarter of the community college population. We are over 25, single, married, some of us have children. We hold down jobs while going to school. We want to make a better life for ourselves and our families; we have a dream to achieve.

We are mature we chose to come to college and in so doing we have sacrificed a lot, along with our families. Our days are long and weekends filled with fun are virtually nonexistent. Many of us have given up our summers.

Some of us have not been in a classroom for 20+ years. We want to blend in, not stand out, but many of us do stand out, in other ways. Since we work so hard, our GPA’s reflect this. We came here already involved in our communities, knowing how to give back and improve the big picture. We still need your help. Due to our lifestyle, we cannot afford to take classes that are not necessary for our goals and degrees. Please be sure that we are not taking classes that were designed for the young people coming straight from high school. So often we hear the words “this course will make you think”. There are a few fallacies in that statement; all courses should make you think and if you look at where we are in life, thinking got us here, and believe me, it is necessary to just get through the day.

Could you please assign someone in your Advising and Financial Aid areas to assist us with our unique needs? Procrastination is not our style, but neither is waiting in long lines, remember, many of us have to juggle child care, jobs and families. We are not asking for special treatment, just being able to make an appointment would alleviate added stress and having evening and weekend times would be such a blessing.

Those college level math requirements you have for degrees that do not need math credits, have them as electives perhaps, but required, not so much.

Help us understand that all the programs, clubs and organizations that are a part of your campus are open to all the students. We nontraditional students can feel a step behind and consequently make incorrect assumptions, especially those of us who, when walking into class the first day, are assumed to be the instructor.

Encouragement and inclusion go a long way in making us feel a part of your campus. We enhance the classroom discussions because of our life experiences, but some of us are embarrassed about arriving so late to the game. Encourage us to share our thoughts.

Depending on where we are on the age chart for nontraditional students, we do not realize that we can apply for student loans, or when you announce in class that a scholarship is being offered, that you are talking to us.

If you have a mentoring program, be sure and let us know. Having someone to talk with in an informal setting about our concerns and being able to ask questions without needing to make an appointment or sit in a long line would do a lot for our self-esteem.

We need to be able to look at our two year schedule from start to finish. We do not have the luxury of time to take any classes that are not part of our degree requirement. Simply because we are mature adults does not mean we know all the answers. We are not even sure of the questions. Any information that you can share to make this goal achievable would be greatly appreciated.

There are a variety of reasons that has brought us to your campus at this stage of our life. Please do not make assumptions. Many of you are assuming that the 40+ are here to improve their job skills, which is true for some, but certainly not all. Some of us have a dream, one that had to keep being set on the shelf because of other obligations. We are members of the family first and self-last generation and/or gender. But our time has come. We are thrilled and petrified. It has been 20+ years since some of us have sat in a classroom. Use it or lose it has been the mantra preached to us and we are very afraid we may have already lost it.

This is the world I lived in for 8 years. Yes, I know the community college is a 2 year institution. No, I did not change my major. There were 2 classes I withdrew from as soon as I knew I was going to fail them and failure simply was not an option and retaking the class would be too time consuming. The first class I dropped was the math that I placed in. At that point, I felt my ultimate goal of a Bachelor’s degree evaporating before my eyes. I can still see myself filling out the drop form at the counter and looking at the staff person as I handed my form back and asking, “Is there any degree that I could graduate with that does not require college algebra?” Her response was, “Yes, Art or Management and Supervisory Development.”

I understand that today that choice has changed, it is now only art. That’s really a shame. At the end of my eight years I had earned my A.A.S. in Management and Supervisory Development. Thanks to that degree, eleven years later I was able to go to a four-year University, where all my credits transferred and I entered as a Junior. Two years later I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communications. I am currently five classes away from graduating with my M.A. in Communications Management. And I did it all without higher level math. Obviously I did not need those courses in order to think.

Sharon Holt, Secretary for the V.P. of Student Affairs 

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