Non-traditional students at a regional state university

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Administration|Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Higher




This study developed and compared demographic and educational data sets for younger and older students in a New England regional state university. Older students, often referred to as non-traditional students, now comprise a majority of students on many campuses. Data on their characteristics, performance, aspirations, et al., are seriously lacking, however. Unlike younger students, high school data are often missing; SAT scores are unavailable, for example. Further, most of the older students attend school part-time and many have attended several colleges with transcripts hard to come by. Many are women who include school within their myriad of home and child care routines. The majority of the older students are returning to school to complete their degrees.^ Without relevant data, it is impossible to plan for these new clients. This study attempted to develop a method for fashioning useful data sets for these students and to understand their planning needs better by comparing them to younger students.^ Regional state universities enroll the lion's share of older students studying for the baccalaureate. Because of the lack of the aforementioned data on older students, most campus policies have been developed from data collected from younger students. The antidote for this situation is to develop a method to collect data on older students that would lead to the development of policy considerations.^ The samples for the study consisted of 20 percent of the senior populations of younger and older students at a New England regional state university over a five-year period. Total N for the groups was 3,050. Selection was random.^ Data for younger and older students were subjected to analysis of variance to determine significant differences between the groups in GPA and selected demographic characteristics. Chi-square was run and significant differences between the older and younger male and female students (i.e., age, gender) was found while regression analysis identified age and gender as significant predictors of achievement for both the older and younger students.^ A number of useful revelations emerged from the analyses. Predictably, older students outnumbered younger students in the part-time category. Their grade point averages were slightly higher than their younger counterparts and women outnumbered men by a large margin. Most older students selected business or education as a major.^ It was recommended that data be collected and analyzed for older students at different types of institutions, e.g., community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and research universities. Surveys of needs of these individuals, e.g., day care facilities and mid-life career planning, might also be useful as officials attempt to plan for these students in a more systematic way. ^