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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Opinion

UH isn’t doing enough to aid nontraditional students


Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

In the town I grew up in, success was measured by how sweaty your clothes were when you got home from work.  If you worked a full eight to 12-hour day and your clothes were still dry, you could consider yourself a self-made millionaire. 

As I got older, that measure of success turned to living situation and vehicle choice. If your clothes were drenched by the time you got home, but you had a good size home and an even bigger truck, you made it out of the slums and into somebody. 

My brother was the first person I ever knew that went to college. My parents and all my relatives barely made it out of high school, so to see him graduate and then wear a tie to work was like something out of a movie.

Alas, he had changed the paradigm within my family and now going to college was the measure of success.

With all this being said, it paints a picture of how important college education is to some people.  My family still sees a college degree as a major milestone and a golden ticket in today’s society.

Not all routes and methods to that milestone are the same and paved in gold.  I am a 37-year-old retired Marine Veteran and single dad, and I can tell you that this journey has been just as, or even harder, than my 15 years in the Marine Corps.

After working 40 hours a week and the full schedule required by the GI bill, I sometimes wish I was still dodging bullets in Iraq. I haven’t even brought up the trials of raising a son and all the activities and attention he requires and deserves.

The University of Houston has plenty of programs to aid  traditional students, but in my particular case, it isn’t enough. Granted, I am a special case, but the university falls short in catering to the nontraditional students who must walk the tightrope between family, work and school. 

One way UH aids its students is through offering a reliable daycare program on campus for students with children.

I have interviewed with staff from the daycare, and I’ve seen how they interact with the children. It is great.  But my son is eight and goes to school. Therefore, daycare is no help to me because I must drop him off and pick him up from school. 

As a full time employee, student and parent, it is difficult to juggle my responsibilities and ensure my son is taken care of

A way the University could improve their services would be to partner with local schools or have a shuttle system to help students who stress about picking up their children on time.

Another issue I think should be considered when it comes to students in my unique situation would be class availability. 

While signing up for one of my classes, the only time slot available was at 4 p.m. Most 40 hour a week jobs don’t get off until 4, so that is problem No. 1.  I live about an hour away, so not only do I have to get off work early, but I have to fight traffic in order to get here on time.

I think it would be worth it to have a program or have some stipulations to offer more classes in the evening for first- and second-year students.  The college assumes that these classes are for 18 and 19-year-old kids, when in fact, students like myself are the ones that need to take these classes as requirements.

Luckily, I was blessed with a professor who took my very unique situation into account and I was able to still graduate on time since this was my only required class.  But not everyone is so lucky.

I think it is worth the time to try to line up classes and resources to help students who share my struggles. 

UH prides itself on being diverse and accommodating the “commuter”,  but I think it is time to take a deeper look into some of the more unique students, such as myself. The university should look to aid students who have to balance family, school and their livelihood with the hopes of easing their struggle and encouraging more nontraditional students to earn their degree.

Adrian Moreno is a liberal arts senior who can be reached at [email protected]

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