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Non-first-time students a fix for decreasing enrollment?

UniversityBusiness.com

The number of Americans age 18 to 21, the traditional college age, has decreased by nearly 700,000 since 2011—from 18.1 to 17.4 million—according to research from the University of Virginia. With this decline, many colleges could turn to older non-first-time students to maintain enrollment numbers and financial goals.

Yet, more than 2.5 million adult learners who re-entered higher ed between 2005 and 2008 have not completed a degree, according to a new study released by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).

Jobs, finances and raising families are some of the many reasons why non-first-time students don’t complete, says Dave Jarrat, vice president of marketing at the higher ed consulting firm InsideTrack, which organized the study. To combat that, students need help to develop effective time management skills and support when laying out their financial paths, he says.

“Many returning students have prior negative experiences with higher education or have been out for so long that they feel out of place,” Jarrat adds. “Providing an up-front conversation designed to normalize the experience and reassure them that they are entirely capable of succeeding, if they set their mind to it and work hard, can make a world of difference.”

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Press Releases

National Study of Non-First-Time Students Shows Disturbing Completion Rates

In the first national effort to benchmark the persistence patterns of non-first-time college students, researchers found that only 33.7 percent of non-first-time students completed their degree, compared with 54.1 percent of first-time students. The number of adult learners who re-entered higher education between 2005 and 2008 but have not completed their degree (2,535,946) would almost fill the city of Chicago.

Completion Rates: Non-First-Time (NFT) vs. First-Time (FT) Students Overall

NFT_TotalComparison

The results come at a critical time as leaders across the country work to increase college attainment rates among working adults. According to the organizations partnering on the study, the idea that a disparity in outcomes exists between non-first-time (NFT) and first-time (FT) students is not new. But, now that the data quantifies the size of the disparity, and highlights the differences in state completion rates, it raises concerns about how effectively our nation’s higher education system addresses the needs of returning students.

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