Research Outline

Non Traditional Students


To gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities four year higher education institutions faces related to recruiting non-traditional students

Early Findings

Approximately 73% of students in higher education meet one characteristic that makes them considered non-traditional.

The characteristics of “non-traditional” are broad, and can include delay enrollment in college, part-time or online attendance, working full time while enrolled, financially independent, with children or single parents, lacking traditional high school diploma, or first generation students.

One challenge for schools recruiting non-traditional students is that their recruiting departments have a stigma against non-traditional students, making assumptions about them that don’t line up with actual data.

The two most rapidly expanding non-traditional segments of the population are older adult students and first generation students (students whose parents did not complete college).

A key challenge for first generation students is that they don’t have mentors who can give guidance on the enrollment process or the importance of college. One way colleges can recruit these students is to connect with them via high school and middle school programs aimed at supporting them.

Simplifying enrollment can support recruiting of non-traditional students whose families do not have English as a first language, by not over complicating titles of academic categories or processes.
Recruiting non-traditional students is easier if institutions provide up front information about courses online and at flexible times, to cater to students with jobs and other obligations.

25% of students in higher education are over the age of 30, and 38% over the age of 25.

This is projected to increase by 23% by 2019.

A challenge colleges have when recruiting non-traditional students is the idea that these students will not want to be as involved as other students, which is not always true.

In-bound marketing is thought to be a best practice for recruiting these students, rather than outbound marketing which is not as effective.

Non-traditional students may need to be recruited in different ways, with a focus on giving them the ability to take time to make the time commitment, and investing similar time in recruiting and following up with them.