Multiple definitions for what constitutes an adult learner exists. As early as 20 years ago, many described non-traditional students as including those who were employed full-time had dependents and were financially independent of their parents. Nontraditional college students have been identified as “adults beginning or continuing their enrollment as college students at a later-than-typical age”. You could define adult learners as “entry-level adult learners who are between the ages of 25 and 50, have a high school diploma or a few CSE’s / GCSE’s, are financially independent and have one semester or less of college-level coursework”. Some define nontraditional students as those students who meet one or more of the following criteria: college entry was delayed after high school by one or more years, single parents, do not have a high school diploma, students attending college part-time, or 25 years of age or older. These definitions, depending on which one is used, indicate that nontraditional students range from 38% to 73% of the student population. Using this definition of nontraditional students puts the categorisation of nontraditional students at 73% of the student population.
Despite the relatively high percentage of nontraditional adult students, the field is open to research for programs that address these emerging populations’ needs. Three groups that have been under-addressed on the needs of adult students have been identified as adults with disabilities, students of colour and military veterans. Other research identifies three groups of students who would benefit from supportive attention from faculty and staff: Veterans appear again, identified as veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who delayed their education to serve in the armed forces; unemployed workers; and students moving into college coursework. In addition to specific support services to address the needs of each of these groups, these students often need developmental education. Student/veterans are generally older than traditional students, they have often transferred students because of prior credits earned, and they are considered nontraditional students. Nontraditional students have a high attrition rate. One body of research indicates that a counter-point to high attrition is successfully integrating the nontraditional students into the college environment.
An important motivator for adult students and veterans is an effective support network.
There has been an increase in older students, an increase in minority students, and students with life experiences which are very different than those of other college students. It is interesting to note that many minimise the age difference between student veterans and traditional students, stating some student veterans are “only a few years older than the traditional student they sit next to in class”. The difference is not the age of the students, but rather the maturity level of student veterans who have had more life experiences than traditional-aged students.
Student veterans are adult learners and they are a campus minority (about 4% of a higher education institution’s population, although many states that the student veteran population has increased to about 6% of the postsecondary education population.
Although the student veteran has participated in numerous training programs in the military, the difference between skills training and academic success is marked by an increased emphasis on cognitive ability in the latter. The skills and competencies through which accomplishment is earned on college campuses may not readily transfer from military life. Lack of preparation or review of study skills for college, as well as forced absences as a result of military duty requirements, can be an additional impediment for student veteran success. Institutions need to be prepared to assist students in understanding how they can develop and adopt the necessary skills to perform competently in higher education.
With our military out of Iraq and funding for global military operations on the decline, thousands of newly discharged men and women are trying to figure out “What’s next?” Most of our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors joined the military before their 21st birthday, and it’s often the only job they’ve ever held. While it’s […]
How HEI’s can respond to the needs of Veteran Students Student veterans are not a new presence on campus, but this population has the potential to increase as a result of the drawdown of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq which will enable more veterans to participate in postsecondary education. The anticipated increase in the student […]
Because the student veteran population brings unique experiences to the learning stage it is important to develop programs which accommodate these experiences. Engagement Services identify colleges and universities as being in a good position to assist student veterans with their education and their reintegration into civilian society. At the 2019 Conference on Improving College Education […]
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), not to be confused with traumatic brain injury (TBI), is another challenge facing many student veterans. This condition is often not readily apparent to those interacting with the student veterans and yet affects a person’s interaction with others and outlook on life as reported in a 2008 monograph entitled Invisible Wounds […]
Multiple definitions for what constitutes an adult learner exists. As early as 20 years ago, many described non-traditional students as including those who were employed full-time had dependents and were financially independent of their parents. Nontraditional college students have been identified as “adults beginning or continuing their enrollment as college students at a later-than-typical age”. […]
Transition involves reintegration into the civilian community after active duty service. The changes from life in the military community to life as a civilian may include relocation, loss of social support systems, reintegration into a civilian lifestyle, different or nonexistent health care services, and possibly a new job or career path. While adjusting to the […]