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Most who enroll in college are "non-traditional" students. Why aren't colleges designed for them?

Feb 23, 2017

What do you picture when someone says "typical college student?"

Maybe you pictured a teenage student who recently graduated from high school. He's off to attend college, which is likely paid for by his parents.

That image is mistaken.

David Scobey is a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan School of Education. His research shows that nationally only one in four college students are what people would consider "traditional" – i.e. fresh out of high school.

"It's not just the public who defaults to this image of the traditional student, it's most academic institutions," Scobey said. "In everything from the academic calendar and when classes are, to rules for financial aid that favor traditional students to the way that teachers are trained to have certain expectations of their students."

Scobey's research found non-traditional students face three main challenges.

Number one: The complexities of their own lives when it comes to full-time or part-time jobs, finances and making it all work with their class schedule.

Number two: There's an emotional factor when it comes to insecurities and confidence for someone who is not experiencing what is perceived to be a "normal" college experience.

Number three: The system, especially when it comes to financial aid, is geared toward young college students. Office hours for professors and other school officials often don't align with schedules of those who work or take care of children.

Listen to the full interview above for more on the challenges the "marginalized majority" face in higher education. You'll also hear why a small college in Tacoma, Washington might be a good model for Michigan institutions.

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