26 Apr 2012

Adults go back to school for many reasons

Author: Amanda Flowers | Filed under: BGSU, Enterprise Story, Spring 2012, Student Contributor

Why do adults go back to school?  Think about it — the classes, the homework, and the exams.
On top of that, adults have responsibilities at work and at home.  They may have to run errands here, take children there, and so on.  Now try adding college classes to that schedule.

Percentages of nontraditional students in the U.S., Ohio and BGSU in 2009. Graph made by Amanda Flowers

The most recent survey, taken in 2009, showed that an average of 7 percent of college students in the United States were nontraditional, according to The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.  The survey also found that Ohio had 6.4 percent of nontraditional students enrolled in colleges.

Percentages of nontraditional students at BGSU years 2007 to 2010. Graph made by Amanda Flowers

At Bowling Green State University in 2009, around 7 percent of the students were nontraditional, which grew to almost 8 percent in 2010, according to institutional research done on the campus.

On the Bowling Green State University campus today, there are about 1100-1200 nontraditional students, according Barbara Henry, Ph. D., assistant vice president for non-traditional and transfer student services. There has been an increase of nontraditional students due to the
economy, personal goals, and love of learning.

At BGSU, a nontraditional student can be defined as a person 24 years and older.  They can also be defined as military, veterans, students who are parents or are parenting, and students who are taking care of ill parents or grandparents, Henry said in an email.

Nontraditional students have also had many different reasons to go back to school.

The job market is tight, and they are unable to find a decent-paying job.  Adults are going back to school to obtain a new degree or they want a career change because they want to do something new, said Janet Hammersmith, records manager in the undergraduate student services office within the college of education and human development, who has seen many students, traditional and nontraditional, graduate from BGSU.

After losing her job of 15 years to cutbacks, Gwyn Hager made a choice to return to school.
“After not finding a job in my field for over a year, I decided to go back to school for more options in my career search,” said Hager, 44, a nontraditional student who is getting her masters degree in criminal justice.

Nontraditional student Gwyn Hager keeps herself busy with school and work. Photo by Amanda Flowers

While going to school might be easy for most students enrolled in college courses, it can be a challenge for nontraditional students.  Nontraditional students are working at least 35 hours a week, managing a household, in addition to taking classes at BGSU or distance learning classes according to many documents.

Distance learning classes allow nontraditional students to work on their degree at their own pace while managing a career and family, said Leslie Lipper, 38, a nontraditional student majoring in advanced technological education, who went back to school to learn more in her field of study.  She takes most of her classes online because she can work them in with her family schedule.  It’s convenient and affords flexibility which allows her to complete school work late in the evenings.

While managing classes, work, and family life, nontraditional students have to remember what their number one priority is in life and that usually means family first, said Adam Holcombe, 33, a nontraditional student majoring as an intervention specialist.

They also must have support from family and friends who encourages them to continue their
education.  Being able to manage work, family, and school at the same time can be difficult.   “Thank God I had a husband to help out,” said Suzanne Barrett, 39, a nontraditional student.

Balancing work, classes, and family is a necessity for nontraditional students.   They work hard to see to it that one doesn’t affect the other.

“If I had to sacrifice one of these this instant, school is first to go,” Holcombe said.  “I have taken a break before from my degree work, and I can always return.   There might be a little more hurdles to jump, but it is not impossible.”

Nontraditional students are able to help and guide younger students because they know what the real world encompasses.

“Do not think of your time here as a time to party and a time to get away from Mom and Dad,” said Holcombe, who has advice for younger students.  “Education is important and will affect your life decisions. Get your education first so you can afford that party, big house, expensive car, traveling, and most importantly, a family.”

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