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Not Your Traditional Student: Changing Demographics on Campus

Updated: Sep 2, 2022


A student graduates high school, goes on to college, completes his or her degree in four years, and then either continues to grad school or enters the workforce.

A traditional-age student and a nontraditional student are getting the same degree, but in my opinion the nontraditional student has to work exponentially harder, because they’re getting pulled in so many different directions

That is what the education-to-career path has traditionally looked like — but today’s typical higher education student is just as likely to be older when they enter (or return to) university, working while in school, a parent, a first-generation student — or any combination of these. Student demographics have changed rapidly over the last couple of decades. Consider these statistics:

More than 47 percent of people entering college are over 25 years old, and 40 percent of those are over 35.

Around 4.3 million undergraduate students are parents. About 55 percent of students who are also mothers are single parents, and 44 percent of student parents also work full time.

About 40 percent of undergraduates and 76 percent of graduate students work at least 30 hours a week.

Up by more than 15 percentage points in the last 20 years, Hispanic Americans now attend college at a rate equal to the national average.

Nearly a third (30 percent) of all entering freshmen are the first in their families to attend college.

In our recent article, Your Typical College Student Has Changed—Why Haven’t College Policies, Kimberly Yavorski looks at these changing demographics at a deeper level, also presenting the argument that higher education policies, particularly around admissions, must evolve to meet the needs of today’s student body.

I was one of those non-traditional students. When I enrolled at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas in the fall of 2003 I was a 37-year-old single mother, who was also working full-time.



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