Administration looks to accommodate non-traditional students

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville seeks to provide support services for the growing number of nontraditional students.

With the job market growing more competitive every day, colleges and universities around the county have seen record numbers of older students seeking enrolment.  According to the website, 40 percent of the nation’s 16 million college and university students are 25 years of age or older.

Assistant Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion Jennifer DeCoste said she believes providing services for this unique group of students is crucial to the future of UW-Platteville.

“In Wisconsin, the number of traditional students is leveling or even declining, while our numbers are increasing for nontraditional students,” DeCoste said.

One program the university hopes to launch is an area on campus for nontraditional students to go between classes.

“We need a place for nontraditional students to relax, study and meet other students like themselves,” DeCoste said.

Others have tried to implement groups and support for nontraditional students in the past with little success.  Affirmative Action Specialist Catherine Kutka has tried as both a nontraditional student and as a faculty member.

“I was the president of the Association of Non-Traditional Students, which pretty much folded a year or so after I left,” Kutka said.  “We were a group of nontraditional students, and a few traditional-aged students who supported our cause, trying to make other nontraditional students aware of the resources and services available to them.  Our greatest difficulty was trying to get together when we had so many other things like family, life, school and work clamoring for our attention.”

Senior elementary education major Kathy Malone knows firsthand the pressures a nontraditional student can face.  Malone transferred to UW-Platteville in 2010 at age 40 to pursue her dream of obtaining a teaching degree.  Malone has learned to depend on her family and her spouse to manage juggling school and her home life.

“The biggest disadvantage is not fitting in and not being as up to date on technology as traditional students are,” Malone said.  “It would be wonderful if the university had a space and programs for nontraditional-aged students.”

As with everything in the academic world, it all comes down to funding.  The university is in the midst of budgeting and the plan for a nontraditional student space is in the works.

“If funding goes through, the plan could be implemented as soon as this spring or summer,” DeCoste said