College may not be every student’s full-time job, and not every Troy student is a recent high school graduate. Nontraditional students don’t all fit into one perfect category.
Herbert Reeves, dean of student services, said the title “nontraditional student” doesn’t necessarily mean a student above the average age range for a college student, which is 18 to 25.
“That term,” Reeves said, “is used also to describe (students) that may be in the traditional student age bracket that may be working full time and going to school part time or may have a family and be attending part time, or those that may go one term or semester and then wait before taking other classes.
“Also, it is used for those students who attend college to get their degree and do not participate in the activities that occur on campus — they are focused on the academic side of college.”
If there are different types of nontraditional students, how much of the student body do they represent?
Ray White, vice chancellor of Troy University’s Montgomery campus, said 90 percent of the Montgomery campus is made up of nontraditional students.
He said there is an increasing number of younger students signing up as nontraditional students, who commute back and forth to school or take online courses.
White said the age gap between traditional and nontraditional students is not a problem.
“It is quite common,” he said, “for these younger students to tell us they learn as much from the older and more experienced students in classes as they do from the faculty.”
According to Reeves, the most common reason people decide to come back to college is employment advancement. Another common reason, Reeves said, is to take advantage of military support for further studies.
Wanda Norris is a 51-year-old mother and Troy University senior, as of the spring 2014 semester, from Phenix City. This broadcast journalism major said coming back to college has allowed her to check another accomplishment off her bucket list.
She also said she has gained confidence with her new skill set to apply for a job particular to her major.
Earlier in life, she obtained a technical degree in business office management. She said that field was something she simply fell into because she was good at it.
Norris also said she felt that the economy drove her into needing a higher rate of pay.
“I felt like I had more to offer in my career path,” she said, “and I wanted to get the most current training available.”
Furthering one’s education at an older age for higher pay and more experience is the most common goal for these nontraditional students.
“They have seen the value of the college degree,” White said, “because they have had jobs where they have observed their peers with college degrees getting better jobs and getting promoted.”
According to White, a fairly typical trait of older, nontraditional students is the discipline in their education.
“The older, experienced students,” White said, “… realize how important it is to complete a college degree to improve their chances for a better career, get a better job or get promoted in their existing job.”
White also said older, nontraditional students know that obtaining their degrees will better the lives of their families and their own lives. With this knowledge, they will go out of their way to get help from professors when they need it.
Norris said her professors are not the only people at Troy who are willing to help her with her work.
“I am always surprised,” Norris said, “when I get stuck with a technological issue or some other glitch that I might not be quite getting, and a random student jumps in to get me up to speed.”
For students above the average college age range, forging friendships with a student of a younger age may or may not work out, due to a generation gap. However, meeting fellow nontraditional students isn’t too rare on the Troy campus.
“I got to know an older male student this year,” said Norris, “that I found I have a lot in common with by the experiences we are having as older students. We help each other to cope in small ways that help us to understand where we fit in the big picture of what we chose to do at this time of our lives.”
Reeves had some words of advice for prospective students who may fit into the “nontraditional” category. He said staying active on campus is key.
“Many life lessons are learned outside of the classroom, and the opportunity to network with others comes through many of the activities offered on a campus,” he said.