MOFFETT: Non-traditional students are the new tradition


Gone are the days when the majority of students on a university campus enrolled immediately after graduating from high school, lived in a dorm and their only job was to attend class and make good grades.  Today, the average University of Louisiana System student is 25 years old, works over 20 hours a week, commutes to classes and most likely began his postsecondary education at another institution.

This is not unique to Louisiana.  According to a recent publication by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), non-traditional students are the new tradition.  AASCU reports only 16 percent of college students across the country “fit the so-called traditional mold: 18- to 22-years old, financially dependent on parents, in college full time, living on campus.”

Non-traditional students are older, may attend school part-time, are often responsible for one or more dependents and juggle attending school with a myriad of responsibilities.  They also bring unique life experiences and determination to the classroom.

UL System schools work hard to develop innovative educational delivery mechanisms to help their non-traditional students thrive and achieve degree completion.  As a major participant in the Center for Adult Learning in Louisiana (CALL), our universities are making it easier for adults who stopped out of college to reenroll and finish their degrees.  The UL System is also the state’s leader in distance learning, currently offering over 70 programs completely online.

Why is this important?  Because, every degree counts.

Analysis released in the fall revealed over half of UL System graduates did not count in a “graduation rate,” a standard measure often used to gauge a university’s success.  That is because the traditional calculation does not include most non-traditional students.  Last year, 5,648 UL System students received undergraduate degrees but were not counted in a graduation rate while 5,124 were included.  We celebrate the 10,772 undergraduate and 2,574 graduate degrees awarded in 2009-10.  In our opinion, all 13,346 graduates are a success.


EIGHT UNIVERSITIES STRONG: The University of Louisiana System is the largest higher education system in the state enrolling over 83,000 students at Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Louisiana at Monroe.