This article I read discussed some of the barriers facing students who are labeled “non-traditional.” These are students who meet at least one of the following criteria: didn’t go to college right after high school, going to college part-time, working a full-time job while in school, being financially independent of their family, having children, being a single parent, or having their GED. There are many barriers facing these students. Many are having to balance financial obligations for school and their family. Some may also be struggling to manage time for studying, work, and family responsibilities. Additionally, many may also be first-generation college students, which comes with its own set of barriers.
There is a video in the first article that gives some students the opportunity to share their stories of why they decided to go to school. The stories were incredibly powerful. One man described using higher education to get himself out of homelessness. Another man wanted to go back to school to prepare himself for a new career and be an example for his children. Honestly, the video is a little cheesy, but the stories are important. The video also has a professor at the community college who was a non-traditional student himself talking about strategies students can use to help address some of the barriers they face.
While the article focused on students at community college, I think it’s important for faculty at all institutions of higher education to consider ways they can help mitigate some of these barriers. The burden to address these barriers should not be fully placed on the students. I think it’s important for professors to be flexible with students’ needs, as they do not know everything their students are dealing with outside of school. Rigid policies, such as mandatory attendance, can inequitably burden non-traditional students. In my own classes and my experience as a TA, the pandemic has really contributed to more professors being understanding of student’s needs and finding ways to help their students succeed.