Nontraditional Students Now the Norm on College Campuses


Still using the term nontraditional students?

Researcher Alexandria Walton Radford told NPR this week that it’s time for the name to go.

“What we think of as nontraditional is really the majority of students now,” said Walton Radford, who leads postsecondary research at RTI International, a think tank based in North Carolina.

That means that most of today’s college students meet one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Financially independent from their parents
  • Have a child or other dependent
  • Are a single parent
  • Lack a traditional high school diploma
  • Have delayed postsecondary enrollment by a year or more
  • Attend school part-time

To cater to the needs of today’s students, colleges need to make some adjustments, Walton Radford told NPR. For example, higher ed institutions should determine how many of their students are working full-time.

“That should affect not just when you’re offering courses, but when you’re offering support services,” she said. “…Offering support services from 9 to 5 may not be that helpful.”

Listen to the full story and check out NACAC’s tips for adult students returning to college.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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