Renee and Nancy are nontraditional college students.
As nontraditional students, we place more value on our college education. There are many factors that contribute to our premise. We have children that demand much time and attention. Responsibilities with the home require many hours of unconditional devotion. Our children have time schedules that need to be met, homework that needs to be checked, school functions that require our participation, and everyday discipline. We are the sole homemakers with all the responsibilities of the maintenance and livelihood of our homes and children. Employment outside the home is a necessity that enables us to provide income for family survival responsibilities and college tuition. Stress from our jobs, home responsibilities and college demands become significant aspects of our every day lives. Throughout our higher education experiences, we have put countless hours into our families, education, and employment. We push ourselves as college students to attain the highest achievement possible. Thus, extending ourselves beyond the limit of physical and mental exhaustion. Time becomes precious and is utilized to the best extent possible. Our education has become more meaningful and we place high priority on our success as students. Therefore, we can provide a better future for not only ourselves, but for our children.
DEMOGRAPHICS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF MATURE LEARNERS
Approximately 27 % (3,593,258) of all undergraduate students (13,369,000) enrolled in college range in age from 25 to 55 and older. Nearly 27 % of all undergraduate students enrolled full-time in two-year colleges range in age from 25 to 55 and older, and 51 % in this age range is enrolled part-time. Full-Time enrollment of this age range in four-year colleges is approximately 13 % and part – time enrollment is 62 % (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2005).
Men ranging in age from 25 to 55 and older comprise 36 % and women 40 % of all undergraduate enrolled students (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2005).
It is interesting to note that women in the 40 to 49 age range constitute 39% of all women undergraduate students enrolled in college. Full-Time men in the age range 25 to 55 and older constitute16 % of the college undergraduate enrollment while 55 % of all undergraduate men in this age range are Part-Time students. Full-Time women in the age range 25 to 55 and older constitute 23 % of all Full-Time women undergraduate students, while 58 % are enrolled Part-Time within this age range (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2005).
There is every indication that the non-traditional, older, or mature age student population will continue to grow in future years both in terms of absolute numbers and proportion of the total tertiary student population. Returning to study after raising a family continues to be a popular and increasingly, necessary step in obtaining employment in a rapidly advancing and changing work place. Postgraduate qualifications are also increasingly expected by employers in many areas (Devlin, 1996).
Mature aged students exhibit characteristics that differ from younger students in a number of important ways. There is much anecdotal evidence from academic staff, learning support staff and students that mature age students study differently compared with younger students. Student age has been found to be a factor in study success. Comparing older and younger students, Hong (1982) reported a higher level of study habits and skills and motivation amongst older students in Australia. In a similar comparison, Owens (1989) reported that a higher proportion of older students achieved successful course completion.
Devlin’s (1996) study yielded the following results:
Mature age students reported themselves, on average, to be (a) better time managers, (b) less anxious about study, (c) better able to concentrate, (d) better able to process information, (e) better able to select important ideas from a topic area, (f) more likely to evaluate their own level of understanding of a topic and (g) more knowledgeable of effective examination strategies. Further, although the differences failed to reach the criteria of statistical significance, mature age students also reported themselves to have more favorable attitudes towards and higher motivation to study and to use study aids more frequently and effectively than their younger counterparts. (p. 57)
At the same time, mature age students reported that they worked an average of 24.6 hours per week outside study. This was 13.7 hours more than the average for the younger student group. Perhaps the mature age students’ better general use of learning and study skills was a matter of organizational necessity as much as the there reasons suggested earlier. (p. 57)
In summary, mature/non traditional learners generally project the following characteristic qualities:
IMPLICATIONS FOR INSTRUCTION MATURE/NON TRADITIONAL LEARNERS