Nontraditional Students are Important to Post-pandemic Recovery

By Kathleen Eischeid, Edcor Business Development Coordinator

Nontraditional students are a vital part of the postsecondary student population. Even before the coronavirus radically changed higher education delivery, nontraditional students represented a large portion of the population and many students faced challenges reaching attainment. On many levels, success for these individuals will drive a healthy post-pandemic recovery for individuals, businesses and the US economy.

Statistics from Higher Learning Advocates give a picture of nontraditional students before the coronavirus hit:
• 35 percent of students are holder than 25
• 64 percent are working learners
• 25 percent are parents with dependent responsibilities
• 49 percent are financially independent
• 31 percent live at or below the federal poverty level.

Personal Benefits
The number of nontraditional students enrolling during and after the coronavirus may change, but the demographics of this group will probably stay very similar. Ensuring that these students can overcome challenges that include work obligations, time conflicts, parenting and family obligations, and financial hardships is beneficial to all. Individuals with higher education have greater stability in their employment and are less likely to lose jobs during recessions. They enjoy better health, a longer life and are more involved in their communities that people without higher education.

At every level of higher education from certificates through degree attainment, people with higher education have  advantages that are important in creating stability. For example, statistics from the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities show that individuals that have a bachelor’s degree have financial advantages over those with a high school education. They have substantially higher annual earnings, and are about half as likely to be unemployed which is an important during this pandemic. During their lifetimes they earn about $1 million more that those with a high school education. People with higher education are more likely to have health insurance provided through their job, with their employers contributing 74 percent more to the insurance.

Business Advantages
Employers that offer tuition assistance to their employees will find a mutual advantage for employees and their business. Edcor partner school Columbia Southern University says that one of the major reasons for nontraditional students to seek higher education is to upgrade their skills so they are qualified for a better job. Supporting employees with a tuition assistance program is a way to ensure that employees are challenged and finding job satisfaction. In addition, TAP will build a talented workforce that can fill positions as work and technology change. Achieving a personal goal is another important reason that nontraditional students seek higher education.  Working learners who accept the challenge of work and school responsibilities, along with family obligations are workers who will work to accomplish goals. These will be valuable employees as businesses must adapt to a shifting marketplace. Tuition assistance that helps employees achieve personal goals will make it possible for businesses to overcome challenges and achieve strategic goals.

Economic Stability and Growth
The American Council on Education says, in The Post-Traditional Learners Manifesto Revisited that “The economic impact of helping these post-traditional learners earn a degree would be staggering.”  The report compares having an associate degree to some college but no degree. A person with the associate degree earns $3100 per year in after-tax income and pays $1,200 more in taxes, compared to a person with some college but no degree. The report concludes if everyone in the US with some college but no degree earned an associate degree it would result in $111.6 billion in after-tax income and $43.2 billion additional tax revenue in one year.

If people could use tuition reimbursement to help attain that education it would make a big difference in the US economy and society. More than 1 million American would climb out of poverty and not need Medicaid. Almost 1 million fewer people would need Supplemental Nutrition Assistance.

Economic stability is uncertain for many workers, businesses and the US economy, following the coronavirus. Providing tuition assistance to help workers prepare for what’s coming next gives businesses the opportunity to retool and prepare for new challenges. Business that support workers’ education can fill skill gaps before they arise, achieve business goals and create a stable economy.