The rise of Non-Traditional Students

Dominique Hunter

College is a new experience with more difficult assignments and living on your own for students 18 to 21 years old. But the college experience for non-traditional students is a lot harder.

Non-traditional students choose to start college later in life, or going to college in their younger years, only to take a break and return when they were older.

That was the case for Laco Johnson, who is currently 33 years old and a political science major at Morgan State University.

Johnson had previously attended the university in 2006 as a sophomore, but had to leave during that year because of personal matters.

“I had some family issues,” Johnson said. “My dad had passed and I had to start taking care of my grandmother and just a whole array of things.”

Johnson kept saying to himself that he would return, but time passed and life difficulties made it hard for him to find the time to come back.

But his family helped encourage him to return and he is set to graduate this December 2018.

“My cousin, who is a Morgan State alumni, I was staying with, and she just kept pushing to come back,” Johnson said.

He returned in 2016, and even got a scholarship from the university to help him in his academic pursuits.

Johnson is not alone in the experience of being a non-traditional student.

According to the 2017 Bear Facts information booklet published by Morgan, 24.5 percent of students at the school were 26 years of age and older.

This points to an even larger trend nationally, as the National Center for Education Statistics reported that there were about 3.5 million students over the age of 35 in college during the 2016 school year, a number that is expected to grow by 2025.

Willie Bragg, the director of Morgan State’s Office of Continuing and Professional Studies, helped these students to have success during their time at the university and beyond.

“I serve as their unofficial, I would say, advisor and mentor all along the stages of the students’ time at the university, and once they leave, I’m still in touch with them,” Bragg said.

Bragg also assisted to connect the students with professionals, inside and outside of Morgan, who can help the students in their fields of interests. In this way, she helped them to obtain internships, graduate school opportunities and other options to help further their professional development.

As, non-traditional students become more current, colleges are placing an emphasis on catering to students that are at different point in life.