Non-traditional students

14 years ago Comments Off on Non-traditional students

She’s up at 5 a.m. packing lunches, cooking breakfast and stuffing backpacks with math homework and spelling lists before her first cup of coffee. By seven she has showered, dressed and has everyone loaded into the car to be dropped off at the elementary, middle and junior high schools before she heads to class herself.

He is also up at 5 a.m., showering and shaving for a presentation he needs to give at 8 a.m. It is a job he feels he must do in order to keep food on the table, clothes on the kids and the mortgage paid. It is not his dream job, but it works until he can get his degree by going to classes whenever they fit into his schedule.

These are the new students at Sam Houston State, the non-traditional students that are becoming more visual each semester in the hallways, libraries and classrooms. Some call them “curve busters,” others just groan when they walk into the class.

Whatever their reason for leaving college, they are all returning for one thing–a degree. A degree that will give them the opportunity to follow “the road not taken” earlier in life, as well as the opportunity to make more money doing it.

How well does SHSU support the non-traditional student?

Some say not well enough. “We really have no place to meet on campus and talk quietly about things we have in common like kids and family,” said Carolyn Harper. “It would be nice to have a place to study, without having to hear about the latest reality show or party.”

Not that Harper is complaining. She remembers what it is like to be carefree, where the only thing you were responsible for was yourself and maybe a part time job. She enjoys listening to them share their thoughts and ideas in class. “It is neat seeing them wear clothes that were in style in the 70’s when I was first in college” she said.

Nanette Craig, a freshman with two children, said it is difficult to fit in when you have two lives. “You have a school life, and you have the one with two kids and a job”, Craig said.

“You really don’t fit in the crowd and I don’t think I necessarily want to, but it would be nice if there was a place I could go and meet others that deal with the stress of kids, job, studying and finals.”

Matt Kodas, an independent computer consultant and father of a 2-year-old says he has no problem finding classes that fit his schedule. He enjoys being a student. Though, he doesn’t feel like the typical non-traditional student with a family at home. His job allows him flexibility in picking classes and his son lives in Missouri with his mom.

More support for the non-traditional student is on the way, said Dr. McManus of the SHSU Counseling Center.

Beginning this spring the counseling center will begin a 25+ student support group that will bring non-traditional students together to learn from each other’s experiences and gain support. “We are hoping that students will come by or call so that we [the counseling center] can tailor a schedule to fit their needs. We would like the support group to meet at a time that is best for the majority of the students,” she said.

In addition to a support group, there will also be monthly luncheons for non-traditional students in the LSC’s third floor atrium beginning this semester. Laura Springel, student assistant with student services, said last semester almost a dozen students came to share concerns, visit and eat. “It is a relaxing atmosphere for students and it is something that student services wanted to do especially for the non-traditional student.”

January 27 was the first lunch for this semester, and only one student showed up. “It is a new semester and the lunch may conflict with schedules,” Springel said. “We are trying to accommodate the majority and may have to be flexible to the students’ needs.”

Students interested in joining other non-traditional students for a monthly luncheon may contact Laura for dates and times at the student services office in the LSC. Springel also said that student services is trying to find new ways to help the non-traditional student feel involved at SHSU.

“Basketball games, as well as other sporting events, are fun for the whole family,” she said. The Spring Fling, Human Race Machine and performances by the music, dance and theatrical departments can also become family venues.

So does Sam support the non-traditional students? It seems it is trying. When asked what Sam could do better, suggestions varied. A senior, who asked not to be identified, suggested better housing and scholarships and grants for working moms and dads. Another student suggested night care or a child-care center on campus so parents wouldn’t feel so far away from their children because of the commute.

Carolyn Harper, however, said it all- “We need a place or a person we can go to and be heard. We need an advocate.”

There are approximately 1,700 non-traditional students at SHSU. Fifty-seven percent are women, with the average age being 32. They realize the value of an education and have come back to fulfill a dream most left years ago for one reason or another. Most are not on financial aid, have a strong work ethic and understand both the value of a dollar and a good friend. What they want most these days is forSHSU to offer a little more support be a good friend too.