Community colleges were designed to serve a dying breed of students--a unicorn--instead of post-traditional students.

Are community colleges for unicorns?

Community colleges can better support post-traditional students if they pay attention to three areas in particular

Post-traditional students are much different from the student population most community colleges were designed to serve, but these institutions must meet this student group’s unique needs in order to stay relevant among declining enrollments.

This set of learners are more likely to attend community colleges than four-year schools, and it’s up to community colleges to demonstrate their relevance and ability to help students gain academic experiences that will fulfill career goals, according to a new whitepaper from EAB.

Related: Are you reaching the “new normal” student?

By responding to student motivations and challenges, community colleges can prove to these post-traditional learners that they can balance classes with their personal and professional responsibilities.

A number of obstacles often stand in the way of post-traditional learners enrolling or attaining degrees or credentials in community college:
1. Limited after-hours class schedules and services
2. Penalties for absences
3. Programs lack milestone credentials
4. Little basic needs support
5. Minimal credit for past experiences

Newly-enrolled students might think they can divide their efforts evenly among family, work, and academics, but most find it impossible. “Academics will nearly always lose to family and professional responsibilities,” according to the whitepaper. “In fact, among those students who left college, 56 percent say the need to work full-time prevents their return to higher education, and 53 percent say family responsibilities keep them from re-enrolling.”

Post-traditional learners need information and tools to find balance.

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Laura Ascione

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