Non-traditional students are typically undergraduate students over the age of 25 who are in school later in life for a variety of reasons. The unique challenges they face have brought with them the need for new resources specifically designed to help older students.
Sitting in the back in class, many younger SLCC students wonder about the old geezers sitting up on the front row. For the older non-traditional students who often feel out of place among the younger crowd this may be changing as more older students either go to school for the first time, or return to school as lifelong learners.
Non-traditional students are typically undergraduate students over the age of 25 who are in school later in life for a variety of reasons. The unique challenges they face have brought with them the need for new resources specifically designed to help older students such as single mothers or older men who return to school for various reasons.
“I got divorced. Before then, I had been a stay at home mom and I found that I couldn’t get a job,” said graphic design major, Michelle Tollan, age 42. “I had always wanted to go back to school, and so I got back on the carousel.”
According to the 2012-13 Fact Book containing all statistics gathered by the SLCC Institutional Research department, the number of non-traditional students attending SLCC has gone up from 34 percent of enrolled students in the fall of 2009 to 46 percent in the fall 2013 semester. That is an overall increase of 12 percent, with over 13,500 non-traditional students enrolled last semester. Almost one quarter of those students were age 39 or older.
Going back to school later in life and juggling a full schedule, a job, and a family is a real challenge, but many find themselves in a position where they need more education to get a better job, to advance in their careers, or for many women like Tollan end up in a position where they need to support themselves after being out of the workforce for several years. Older women returning to school have increased 14 percent as compared to an increase of only 8 percent of older men.
There are grants available through the financial aid office and from the Department of Workforce Services that allow adult learners to continue their education.
The first step that students need to take is to fill out the FAFSA form, which will help determine eligibility for a Pell grant, which is money that does not need to be paid back. To learn more about grants and scholarships available in addition to the Pell grants and government student loans, students should contact Ruth Henneman, the scholarship specialist in the Financial Aid department at SLCC at (801) 957-4123.
The Department of Workforce Services can help students find grants that will pay for tuition and fees as well as school supplies if they are enrolled in a vocational rehabilitation program, for example if they have been laid off and can’t find work, are on unemployment, or are single mothers. Students wanting to know more can contact DWS.
Benefits of Going Back
“Since I am now the primary breadwinner, finding work that will fit around my school schedule is challenging,” Tollan said, “and then being available to pick up my daughter from school as well makes it harder than it would have been if I were just out of high school with fewer responsibilities.”
There are also benefits of going back to school as a more mature adult. Many older students report better grades, better overall focus, and more feelings of empowerment and self worth that come from not being so caught up in dating games, social politics, and fashion trends.
“It has just boosted my self esteem. I have learned so much about myself,” Tollan said. “I feel more empowered and a lot less boxed in than I did before.”