In our previous blog post, we looked at a recent study on the cost of college across the country, and how that cost is declining. One group this study does not focus on, unfortunately, is nontraditional students. Instead, it focuses on full-time enrollees, usually made up of recent high school graduates. Nontraditional students, in comparison, often attend school part-time (or less than part-time), work part-time or full-time, and often juggle family responsibilities as well as work and school. So, while the out-of-pocket costs for students has decreased for many full-time students, the same may not apply to nontraditional students. Nontraditional students often do not qualify for Pell grants, for instance, which are seen as playing an important role in bringing down the cost of college.
But the needs of nontraditional students are important, especially here in Pennsylvania, where half of all jobs (51 percent) require some postsecondary education (though not necessarily a bachelor’s degree), even though more than half of all Pennsylvanians lack the education to perform them. At the same time, a diverse group of industries, ranging from manufacturing to healthcare, lack qualified, skilled employees. Pennsylvanians want to work in these jobs, and employers want to hire them – what is needed is a strategy through which workers can equip themselves with the proper skills to succeed.
During National Nontraditional Students Week, please ask your legislators to support funding for nontraditional students so that they can obtain the education they need to earn self-sufficient wages for their families. Access to new skills for these workers has an immediate impact on our workforce and our economy. You can learn more about the need for new skills, and Pennsylvania's community colleges, in our report, "Pennsylvania’s Workforce: The Role of Community Colleges."