Nontraditional Students and Business Success are Linked

The American workforce and nontraditional students are linked: Adult workers need to complete or continue their higher education so they have the skills and education necessary for a changing workplace and businesses need employees/nontraditional students to be successful so they have a skilled workforce. Each impacts the other. Nontraditional students’ success creates a strong workforce for American businesses and the obstacles nontraditional students face can often be overcome through their employment.

Today’s nontraditional students
The 2016 College Experience Survey from Strayer University and U.S. News & World Report’s Marketing and Business Intelligence Teams found that nontraditional students reflect the racial demographics of the overall U.S. population. Racial minorities make up about 38 percent of the total U.S. population. Racial minorities make up about 33 percent of nontraditional students compared to 12 percent of traditional students. Nontraditional students have very practical attitudes about higher education. Over half, 54 percent, are motivated by the hope of getting a better job. They place greater value on scheduling flexibility, employability and affordability than traditional age college students do.

Two obstacles and solutions
Finances are the major concern for nontraditional students. Finances are the main reason many adult students dropped out of previous attempts at higher education, and only about 15 percent feel financially secure according to the CLASP Center of Postsecondary and Economic Success.

Working while going to school is common today and most students work while they are in school to meet financial obligations. About 40 percent of undergraduate students and 76 percent of graduate students work at least 30 hours a week. About 25 percent of students work full-time, according to Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. About 19 percent of working adults have children and family responsibilities that make work a necessity. Neither undergraduate nor graduate students can abandon their careers while they are working to further their skills.

Tuition assistance is one way to help ease the financial burden of these working students with support that will help them be successful. As these students are successful in completing their higher education goals, and advance the knowledge and skills they can use in the workplace, businesses will earn a substantial return on their investment. The Georgetown report Learning While Earning states, “While TAPs may be beneficial for working learners, they also benefit employers. Workers who make full use of tuition assistance may demonstrate productivity above the market level (i.e. companies that offer TAPs hire more productive workers to begin with and reduce costs through decreased employee turnover).”

Feeling connected to their education experience is the second major obstacle for nontraditional students. Only 44 percent feel connected to their school, and 20 percent feel connected to fellow students, according to the CLASP study Achieving Success for Non-Traditional Students.

This is where TAP can go beyond financial support. Most nontraditional students identify with their workplace and career more than their school. Through counseling to establish higher education and career paths, students will be more connected to the goal they have set and the employer that is supporting them. Counseling to follow a defined path benefits both students and employer. When students have an opportunity to apply what they are learning in coursework to their jobs it reinforces the skill they are learning. Businesses benefit from students who are learning the latest skills and applying them immediately.

Tuition assistance is an immediate solution for students’ major obstacles. As the obstacles are removed, students succeed and businesses benefit.