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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Academics & Research

UH, a home for nontraditional students

An increasing number of students — up to 40 percent, according to The Washington Post — are nontraditional.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nontraditional students are classified by the following traits: a student who doesn’t attend college immediately after high school, attends college part time, works full time, is considered financially independent for the purposes of financial aid, has dependents other than a partner, is a single parent or doesn’t have a high school diploma but has an alternative certificate of high school completion.

Chemistry junior Amelia Guzman is one of these students.

After being out of school for 11 years, she decided to go back and get her degree. Despite having two children to take care of, she is determined to graduate, even if it takes longer than expected.

“I don’t regret having my family,” Guzman said. “But I always wanted to go to college and even if it isn’t everyone’s plan, it works for me.”

There are four categories for placing students: a student is either completely traditional if he or she doesn’t have any nontraditional characteristics; minimally nontraditional if he or she has only one; moderately nontraditional if he or she has two or three; and highly nontraditional if he or she has four or more of the traits.

Alumnus Jonathan Miller, who graduated high school in 2006 and went to Sam Houston State University, decided it wasn’t the school for him. He failed many of his classes and decided to drop out and get a job. After working at the same place for three years, he felt it was time to get his degree in economics.

“I just wasn’t mature enough to handle it,” Miller said. “I’m older, and I’ve learned a lot and I know what I want now. I don’t really consider myself a nontraditional student; people do things differently and that includes college.”

Print journalism senior Cory McCord started off as a traditional student at Texas State University, but realized that it wasn’t for him. A year after enrolling, he left and began working in the offshore oil industry and remained there for three years. At 21-years-old, he left the offshore oil industry and worked at a few different jobs before deciding he was ready to go back to school. He began at Lone Star College before transferring to UH two years ago. He currently works full time and takes 14 hours in school.

“I don’t mind being categorized as a nontraditional student because it’s only a title,” McCord said. “I took care of myself at an age when most people still need help of some sort, and I think that’s helped me become a better student. I don’t regret how I’ve ended up at UH.”

Universities across the country have not yet adapted to this new kind of student. Though UH does not currently offer on-campus housing for undergraduates with families, there are plans to construct housing to accommodate the increasing number of traditional and nontraditional students.

Universities, including UH, offer classes online and at satellite campuses. Students like Guzman will continue to take advantage of UH’s different enrollment opportunities, but not every class is offered in these options. As a result, many nontraditional students have to go to school part time and may take longer to graduate than traditional students.

“I would like there to be more online classes,” Guzman said. “Because work doesn’t always work around school, and I like spending time with my family, but I do what I have to. I want my kids to know they can do anything.”

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