Choosing the right school for you is only half the battle. What happens after, how does a nontraditional student find their footing in an unfamiliar environment?
There have been many theoretical approaches which have surfaced about adult learners over the years. One of the best received comes from Malcom Knowles, called Andragogy. This theory suggests that adult learners are more likely to prefer self-direction, show a readiness to learn that is based on a need to know or do something, they are problem centered rather than subject centered, and have a high degree of internal motivation (AACU- Association of American Colleges and Universities).
“I can only speak to my experience, but I can tell you that had I gone to school earlier I don’t think I would have been nearly as productive,” says McClintock. “I’m going with a specific purpose in mind, to further my career and help establish my family financially.”
With such amazing attributes that seem to evolve with adult education, why isn’t everyone waiting? Well, In contrast to these studies, findings by Jovita M Ross-Gordon, a professor at Texas State University, found that in addition adult learners may have a lack of self-confidence upon readmission. Her research also suggests that adult learner’s desire structured learning so to have a clear idea of the teacher’s expectations, and while they wish for flexibility they also desire structure (AACU).
Sirrina Simard, 26 of Merrimack NH, spoke about the trepidation's she had when re entering the education system as a non traditional student. "I definitely had some nervous energy going back. You question if this is the right decision, will I be able to keep up with all my responsibilities, is this going to to benefit me the way I'm hoping? It's a lot of time and money, I think most students have the same hesitations, regardless if they are traditional or non traditional."
The infrastructure of education is changing rapidly. Now more than ever, academic opportunities for the individual are broadening, taking shape as a fluid more free form entity than ever before. Women, ethnic and racial minorities, as well as the lower middle class, are making up the majority of nontraditional students. Historically these groups have been the ones overlooked, and under served in the academic arena. Will this landscape of flexible alternatives be the answer that our country has been searching for?
"Despite having an understanding of the values of adult learners, the Commission for a Nation of Lifelong Learners concluded ill-adapted higher education practices pose barriers to participation, including a lack of ﬂexibil- ity in calendars and scheduling, academic content, modes of instruction, and availability of learning services (NCHEMS, 2007). This disconnect resonates as adult learners or nontraditional students drop out of college at a much higher rate, 38.9%, than traditional full-time students (18.2%). The retention rate for nontraditional students age 30 or older is 65.4%, and the 6-year graduation rate is an abysmal 10.8% (Pusser et al., 2007)"(Cooper).