Why the Nontraditional Student will disrupt Higher Education

Posted by Larry Grey on Jan 13, 2020 3:57:34 PM

It’s a new year and new decade.  What are the trends and outlook in Higher Education?  Are today’s institutions prepared?

In short, the industry is at an inflection point and most institutions are at risk of being left behind:

The outlook for enrollment growth in higher education among traditional 18-22 year-olds in the next decade is dire – Inside Higher Education


Nearly 75 percent of American undergraduate students are “nontraditional” – USA Today

The increasing costs of college, recognition that the recession disproportionately affected less-educated people, and the need to keep up with the pace of technological change is changing this established demographic.

The Traditional Student versus the Nontraditional Student

The traditional student is often defined as an 18-22 year old domestic high school graduate pursuing a 2 or 4 year degree full time.  Historically, this demographic represented the vast majority of U.S. college students and admissions processes were (and still are) optimized to compete for this pool of candidates.

Therefore, the nontraditional student is somebody who:

  • may be 23 or older
  • might be from a foreign country
  • might not be a high school graduate
  • might not be pursuing a standard 2 or 4 year degree
  • might be pursuing education goals part time

Challenges faced by the status quo

Nontraditional students represents a new market with different backgrounds and goals. 

Therefore, institutions need new techniques and offerings to attract and service nontraditional students. 

Most institutions [still] find it’s easier to recruit a student out of high school – Inside Higher Ed

The market for nontraditional students is underserved – Inside Higher Ed

As the current job market requires a shift toward lifetime learning, 74 million people are prospective students for higher learning compared to 3.6 million graduating high school seniors. – Inside Higher Ed

Over the past 6 months, we've been working with institutions who are re-organizing their programs, infrastructure, and processes to allow them to take advantage of this new opportunity.  Unfortunately, accomplishing this isn't easy and requires focus and commitment across all parts of the organization.

Whether you're a community college, a 4-year university, or a for-profit college;  it's critical that you make plans today or risk being left behind.