Universities will need to embrace the needs of non-traditional students, who want a choice in where, when and how they learn

3 trends supporting the rise of non-traditional students


Universities will need to embrace the needs of non-traditional students, who want a choice in where, when and how they learn

More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that higher education institutions are recognizing and adapting to the lasting impacts that the transition to online learning has had on both learners and faculty alike. While some students are returning to campus, we’ve seen an increase in the number of non-traditional students taking advantage of expanded access to education opportunities online.

These non-traditional learners might be looking to complete their degree, get training for their current job, or upskill for a new one. More often than not they will have some high school or post-secondary education, work full time, and have to balance their education pursuits with other life responsibilities. Flexibility isn’t just something they want – it’s what they need to make it easier to work their way toward their educational goals while they’re working to sustain themselves and their families.

Securing a bachelor’s degree from a highly-respected institution continues to be one of the clearest pathways to professional advancement in the U.S. But traditional four-year degrees don’t necessarily fit the needs of non-traditional students. Universities must continue to evolve to meet the needs of this growing segment of the market.

Further embracing a few learner-centric trends we’ve seen emerge recently will not only continue to expand the promise of higher education, but can also play a key role in addressing the growing labor shortage and helping prepare the workforce of tomorrow.

Better pathways to degree completion.
Thirty-six million Americans hold some postsecondary education, but with no completion and are no longer enrolled. This means there is a massive audience of untapped potential that universities can engage with through degree completion programs, much like the one Morehouse College launched in 2021. Knowing that many of these learners likely have some work experience, integrating a robust career services function can add even more value to completing a degree.

eSchool Media Contributors