[path]The differences among MSU students are profuse, ranging from the trivial to the profound. Some wear jeans to class, while others prefer a comfortable pair of sweats. There are those who choose to walk everywhere and others who ride their bikes. Some students love to order pizza at 2 a.m., versus the mass who go with the dorm cafeteria food everyday. And some are fresh out of high school, while others are in their twenties, thirties – or older.
It is assumed that the majority of our campus’ average students lie between the 18 to 22-year- old age group, and are working on a degree in a four- or five-year program. (Nothing wrong with being a super senior!) However, various students do not fit the role of a traditional college student. A non-traditional student could be someone who is over 23, married or has a child. It might be someone who commutes to class on a daily basis or, in business junior Jamie Lullove’s case, someone who has transferred from another institution.
Lullove, 20, chose to transfer to MSU after spending her first two years of college at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. At culinary school, almost all of Lullove’s classes were food-related, consisting of product knowledge, baking and pastries. She came to MSU with expectations that she would fit in right away because she already had friends going here and she had not been out of high school for very long. “College here is just like high school, but better,” Lullove said. “Once I started my academic classes, the feeling of being in actual school came back to me pretty quick.”[love]
According to the Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education, non-traditional students make up 49 percent of the new and returning student residence nationwide. Lullove returned to school to pursue more in life and complete college with an undergraduate degree. Lullove found that she, like many transfer students, was placed in freshman-level classes. “When I first realized that most of my classes would consist of freshman students, I did feel a little out of place,” Lullove said. “However, I realized that neither of us has experienced actual college courses before and, in that sense, we were all kind of in the same boat.”
A sect of non-traditional students at MSU have switched institutions in the middle of their college career. MSU has transfer admission criteria based on academic standing and completion of courses, and admission consideration is stronger for those who obtain at least a 3.0 GPA and have completed 28 credits. Lullove is taking 19 credits this semester to catch up and graduate with a degree in hospitality business. While attending culinary school, she was still in classes that required her to study, but rather than the basic four (math, science, history and English), she took other courses more designed for the college. “I am the same student I have always been, just with a different focus,” Lullove said. “I still went to class just like everyone else for the past two years. It was just a little different.”
With the growing numbers of transfer students around the country, universities are setting up programs to accommodate these students’ needs. Like freshman and transfer students, non-traditional students can have difficulty adjusting to university life. Along with those adjusting to being a non-traditional students are those affected by them, mainly friends, significant others, and in this case, roommates.
Telecommunications senior Charlie Doren is living with a 28-year-old freshman, Joe Blackmore, a policial science and pre-law major. Blackmore was originally enrolled at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, but left to work full-time. Blackmore came back to MSU to get his undergraduate degree, and he plans to go to law school.
“It is definitely different at first,” Doren said about his living situation. “It was kind of weird because it was hard to think of things in common, but after a few days we found more and more things in common and it is just like living with a typical college student.”
Being a 28-year-old freshman, Blackmore is trying to adjust to life at a big university like MSU, and Doren is more than willing to help with this adjustment. “There is a lot more of trying to help my roommate out,” said Doren. “I often tell him where things are or about professors I have already taken or classes I have already taken.”
In addition to providing admission presentations for students like Blackmore, the university offers financial aid programs for non-traditional students who might need help paying for their education or supporting a family.
Lori Strom, coordinator of the Family Resource Center at MSU, works with students who are trying to manage time between being a student and a parent. The Resource Center recently proposed a childcare grant to student parents that helps reduce tuition expenses. “MSU understands these students have special needs,” Strom said. “We are doing our very best to help out.”
The resource center offers other programs so parents are not forced to put their kids in a development center. Strom is committed to helping these students because she realizes how hard it is to go to class, work and support a child all at the same time. “These students are used to working and going to school, and now some are just struggling to do the best they can,” Strom said. “I help them with that because it is obvious they can not work full time.”
Scholarship opportunities are also available for non-traditional students through the Women’s Resource Center on campus. The William and Phoebe Clark Scholarship, offered through the center, is designed for non-traditional students enrolled in a degree program at MSU and who demonstrate financial need. Single parents and applicants who have experienced life-changing circumstances are eligible. The Mildred B. Erickson scholarship is designed for students who have had to interrupt their degree studies for a significant amount of time, and can demonstrate financial need.
In addition to providing non-traditional students with monetary means, the university has a large parking lot at Mt. Hope Road for commuting students to park and then attend classes. Many students choose to commute rather than paying to live in pricey dorm rooms or off-campus housing. Hospitality business junior Daniel Stewart commutes from his home in Williamston to East Lansing to attend his classes four days a week. Although some students love the idea of getting away from home and experiencing living on their own for a change, Stewart still gets a full college experience.
“I have a place I can stay up at MSU when I want to, but it just makes more sense for me to live at home now,” said Stewart. “It’s a good 15-minute drive that I really don’t mind at all. I guess we are a little non-traditional. I’m shocked to hear the statistics, but maybe we are part of a new breed of students.”
College dynamics are clearly changing due to the rise of non-traditional students. MSU is attracting more and more students like these three – adults who desire to further their education and work for their degrees at various stages in life. The chance to earn a college education is no longer something that immediately follows the tossing of a graduation cap in high school, and it is not something that should be sniffed at because a student is 28, and not 18.

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