Non-traditional, adult learners: Why they attend a proprietary postsecondary institution and their experiences
Ross-Jones, Marvel E
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This is an ethnographic study the focus of which is non-traditional adult learners who chose to attend a specific two-year, degree-granting proprietary college. The question that guided the research is "What are their reasons for choosing this college, their expected outcomes, their experiences (both campus and non-campus based) while attending college and how they prioritize being a student among their other life roles. The research methodology employed a mixed-method design in that it included a structured quantitative questionnaire, as well as the qualitative component of one-on-one semi-structured interviews. The research reports that there are a multitude of factors that non-traditional students take into consideration when making the decision to return to school. There is considerable thought and deliberation that takes place, seemingly outside the confines of, or in spite of, the fears and anxiety that arise. Students reported that their fears and anxiety began to subside as they developed social groups, then study groups. They came to realize that their life experiences had afforded them something to offer in and outside of class and that teachers and students (traditional, as well as non-traditional) valued their input. As their confidence levels and self-esteem rose, some felt comfortable assuming leadership roles during class teamwork and in extracurricular club activity. The study also reports that it is seldom the case that non-traditional students have the luxury of prioritizing being a student over their other life roles (i.e., spouse, parent, employee, community worker). Rather, they develop coping mechanisms that enable them to add on the role of student.