Talk of the Nation - a report about nontraditional students

Some interesting things from the NPR show today...

Well, the Talk of the Nation segment on Nontraditional students just aired. It was great! Guest callers told of their experiences as nontraditional students, including some veterans and teachers who used to have nontraditional students in classes years ago.

Here are some points that struck me:

There are a lot of nontraditional students in schools everywhere right now. Many are going back to school because of the recession, and some are going back after serving in the military.
Many are excited about their future.

But many will not graduate. Colleges and universities are finding that some students are not prepared. But nontraditional students are pretty much just as able and prepared as younger ones, an expert said.

One student talked about starting his college career with a Semester at Sea, where he met younger students. He is now attending a politically active university, which he likes a lot. One ex-military student said that there was actually a history course that had the war he served in as part of the curriculum.

Four years can be just the beginning for some students, one speaker emphasized. He went on to say that some students don't realize this. Education can take longer because of other responsibilities, such as jobs and families.

Those responsibilities can also mean that some will drop out. There can be some "transition difficulty" for nontraditional students too, that colleges need to address with special programs that are not available everywhere yet.

Some people said that they thought that the whole education system was broken. Teachers in high school blame students' poor performance on elementary school teachers not preparing students. And college teachers blame it on high school teachers.

One caller said that people need to stop "teaching to the test" (I have heard this before) and ask the harder, concept questions. He thinks that community college or college sometimes can not be hard enough for him. Many students are not prepared for college, one person said, and that needs to be changed.

And credit for life experiences is often not given, because schools are set up for traditional, not non-traditional students. They need to have more opportunities to get credit.

But nontraditional students can inspire younger ones. A student in California said that she is appreciated in the classroom full of many traditional students.

Another thing somebody mentioned is that colleges and universities might be famous for a team or their name, but what is really important is that they actually do a good job in teaching students. The speaker said this needs to be looked into. He suggested some way of measuring this would really help students make an informed choice of schools.

This was a great show! Here is the blurb from the NPR blog page:

"Non-Traditional College StudentThere's no such thing as a 'typical' college student anymore.  While dorm rooms at four-year colleges and universities start filling-up with eager new students fresh out of high school, statistics show those freshman are now the exception.  Nearly 75% of college students do not follow the traditional track — students just out of high school who graduate in four years.  Instead, more students hold down jobs, have a family, are enrolled part-time or some combination of all three.  And campuses are learning to adapt to appeal to these students.  Neal Conan talks with some "non-traditional" students about their experiences and with an expert on higher education about life on - and off- campus in 2010."

There are already some comments from nontraditional students there. Scroll down from this page to see them.

You can hear this show later on from this page at NPR. It is "pending" right now. I will post the link here when they have it ready.


Some Nontrad links: The Nontrad site and blog Join Nontrads on Facebook Nontrads on Yahoo Nontrads on Twitter