Life Gets in the Way: Why Non-Traditional Students Aren’t Graduating

The traditional college classroom is not so traditional anymore. Once filled primarily by young people straight out of high school, the vast majority of today’s college students are older and either work full-time, have a family to care for, or both. The graduation rates of these non-traditional college students, however, are decreasing with time.

Graduation rates for traditional students are dropping across the country, but numbers for part-time students working towards a four-year degree are even lower – for every 100 who enroll, just 25 will have degrees eight years later. Why the low rate? “Students don't finish because life gets in the way,” says Dominique Raymond, spokeswoman for Complete College America.

What many of these non-traditional students end up with is some form of tuition debt, minus the career advantages that come with a college degree. Unable to attend classes regularly due to a demanding full-time job or finding it impossible to make time for studying with one or more children to clothe, bathe, feed, and entertain, these hardworking but often overwhelmed students find that earning the necessary credits to graduate is just too challenging.

In today’s economy, competition for jobs is at an all-time high, with a college degree becoming more and more essential when seeking employment. With DSST tests (formerly known as the DANTES exam), non-traditional students are provided with alternative methods for earning a college degree, creating a more promising future for themselves and their families. The average length and cost of a traditional 3-credit course at a public or private university is 3-4 months and $750, respectively. DSST, on the other hand, offers exams for college credit which can be completed in a single sitting and for just $80 (plus a sitting fee). When combined with courses taken at a traditional two or four year university, DSST allows for quicker and cheaper graduation, making a college degree a more realistic opportunity for non-traditional students everywhere.

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