Non-traditional students increasing

Since the 1980s, the number of non-traditional students attending college steadily increased to percentages higher than 70 percent.

According to a report done by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2002, 73 percent of undergraduate students are non-traditional students; meaning students who did not attend college right after high school or who must work while attending college.

Many of these students attend online colleges like the University of Phoenix.

During the 2008-09 school year the University of Phoenix enrolled more new students than any other program in the country, according to an article on

While Illinois State is a traditional university, it is home to almost 12 percent, or 2,200, non-traditional students.

Michael Zajac, coordinator of off-campus and non-traditional student services believes universities will be seeing a lot more non-traditional students in the next 10 years because of the poor economy and military personnel returning from the war.

"Colleges and universities need to adapt. We try to be ahead of the curve by offering programs to help get students reacquainted," Zajac said.

Many departments at ISU do not offer as many night or online classes as a non-traditional university, but it may still be the best choice for some students.

"For some people, they want the hands on learning option, they want to be part of a community," Michelle Schuline, program advisor for enrollment management and academic services, said.

"We offer a lot more programs than online. For some programs, you just need to be in the classroom. You can’t student teach online," she added.

Karrie Damerell, senior history major, came back to Illinois State in order to get her second degree because she enjoyed her original experience here so much.

"From my experience, teachers have been understanding if my child is sick and I cannot attend class. I haven’t had anyone say this is unacceptable," she said.

"Scheduling has also been conducive for me to get here and also get home to my other job.

"However, I signed up for EAF over the summer as an online class and I dropped the class a week into it because I was so unfamiliar with blackboard and Live Text. It was difficult trying to learn these things at home by myself," she said.

The distance education task force may open doors for more non-traditional students as they continue to offer classes at alternate times and in alternate formats.

This semester the Dean of Students office and the University Program Board will offer events including an outing to Miller Park Zoo on Oct. 3 and a coffee event held on the third Wednesday of each month in the Julia N. Visor Academic Center.

The first of the coffee events will be held September 23 from 7:30 to 9 a.m.

These events allow students to meet other students, ask questions and learn what is available on campus. They serve the valuable purpose of meeting fellow students.

The Visor Center will also offer a "rusty study skills" workshop on Sept. 1 at 5 p.m. Students can register for this workshop on as well as access other information about services the Visor Center provides.

Passages also offers a special program for non-traditional students that gives an overview of parking, technology, dining and other general questions.

"I believe there is a pretty good support network for these students. There are divisions both in the Dean of Students office and Academic Affairs that are set up to answer students’ questions and concerns," Zajac said.

"If they want to be involved they can work with us to develop the college experience they want. There used to be a non-traditional student organization but it fell thorough due to lack of interest," he said. "If anyone wanted to start it up again, we would be happy to assist."
"In the classroom I don’t feel like I’m any different than any other student. I just feel like I am a part of the classroom," Damerell said.


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