Jan. 20, 2015 – For more than a decade, nearly a third of the students enrolled at the University of Utah were over age 25, a trend that’s catching on with the rest of the country. With years of experience supporting adult learners, it’s no surprise the U was ranked No. 2 by BestColleges.com in its list of top 50 colleges for older students.
Adult students accounted for 38 percent of all undergrads in the country in 2011, a 41 percent increase from 2000. Last year, 32 percent of the undergraduates at the U were 25 or older, and that number has been steady for more than 10 years.
Nontraditional students are adults, 25 or older, who are returning to an undergraduate program or attending college for the first time. Common reasons for postponing college include military service, marriage and family responsibilities, gaining work experience and financial preparedness.
“As a research university with a wide range of degree offerings, the U is appealing to older students intent on gaining a four-year degree,” said Mary Parker, associate vice president of enrollment management. “Additionally, the U has programs and support services designed with older students in mind, including continuing education, which offers credit, noncredit and professional courses for students of all ages.”
In its detailed review of the school, BestColleges.com noted the U’s flexible hybrid and completely online coursework that caters to a diverse demographic.
Other programs at the U valued by nontraditional students:
Boots to Utes: Staffed by student veterans, a dedicated Veterans Support Center on campus supports an active community for veterans and returned military. The center provides financial assistance, advising, counseling, tutoring, as well as a computer lab and study spaces to aid in the transition to college. The state of Utah recently passed a bill making nonresident veterans eligible for in-state tuition. The U is also home to the National Center for Veterans Studies, with faculty engaged in research, education, outreach and advocacy to improve the lives of veterans.
Women’s Resource Center: The Women’s Resource Center is a network of resources for all women on campus. It offers scholarships and financial assistance, counseling for individuals and couples and support groups for women. Boundless Opportunity and Osher Re-Entry Scholarships are specifically for adult learners, male and female.
Returning to the U: The Returning to the U program assists adult students who left the university close to graduation and now wish to return to complete a bachelor’s degree. Academic advisers help returning students with the transition back to the U, from readmission to graduation. Since the program started, nearly 300 Returning to the U students have completed degrees.
Child care: The Center for Child Care and Family Resources helps U students (as well as faculty and staff) select a quality program for their children. It offers a comprehensive guide to child care resources and information that supports parents in their search for child care services, including offerings for drop-in evening care, free finals week care and a “Parent Night Out” one Saturday per month for students. The U also supports eight child care/preschool programs, one of which is designed specifically to meet the needs of part-time student parents by offering part-time and hourly child care. Income-eligible students can even apply for grants from the office to offset the cost of childcare.
Plan to Finish: The U has different ways to get the classes and credits needed to help all students – including nontraditional ones – finish college more quickly. Older adults often have obligations that make a standard college schedule difficult. Flexible scheduling, called FlexU, is one way to get the classes and credits needed to complete a course of study.