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Non Traditional Vs Traditional Learners

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Non-Traditional vs Traditional Learners - A Look at Statistics and Outcomes

Historically, the quintessential college student leaves home at the age of 18 to live on a college campus for four years. These students have long been labeled as ‘Traditional’ college students with the learning category outliers such as Adult, Online, Part Time, and those working Full Time while earning a degree being considered Non-Traditional and a minority amongst students. However, the learning demographic across the United States is shifting, and our ‘Traditional’ learners have become a minority. According to the Department of Education, in 2011 there were 17.6 million undergraduates enrolled in American Higher Learning. However, just fifteen percent of
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Students with one or fewer characteristics are minimally traditional, two to three characteristics are moderately traditional, and having four or more characteristics define highly Non-Traditional students. (Hoyt, Howell, Young & Wygant 2010)

For highly Non-Traditional learners there are several factors that can negatively impact their lives. Lack of time, including child rearing and full time work that limits time and opportunity is often cited as a major constraint. Additionally, highly Non-Traditional learners are significantly less active in campus activities and are less involved in the the general college experience. Hoyt, Howell, Young & Wygant’s 2010 study found that Non-Traditional students were “Less likely than traditional students to participate in other academically related activities such as organized off-campus study opportunities (10% versus 17% ) and forums, seminars, galleries, and recitals related to their major (49% versus 56%).”

Student involvement on campus is viewed by higher education institutions as an important metric in predicting academic achievement. While GPA does not assess specific learning outcomes, it can be used as a factor to assess academic success. A study at Purdue University found that students who are involved in student organizations having statistically higher GPAs than the general student body (Hawkins 2010). However, this trend does not fit the findings for Non-Traditional
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