I read a tweet last week from Ellucian that made me think quite a bit about the state of things within our traditional campus environments. The tweet was fairly straightforward in its wording. However, it made me think about how our traditional brick-and-mortar campuses are structured – from student affairs services, class schedules, pedagogy, and marketing/recruitment tactics. Here's the tweet:
In addition to pointing out that there is a big difference between how we educate people based on age and life circumstances, the tweet included a link to a blog post that further elucidated the point from Ellucian. Our institutions of higher learning exist to serve everyone. Yet, for the most part, the core business is based around a limited demographic. And, the for-profit industry has made a lot of money off of this fact. Think of how it must seem to the so-called "non-traditional" student: You're being sold countless offers of an education by for-profits that have abysmal graduation rates, and yet they are the only places who are courting you.
Brick-and-mortar institutions are mostly-structured to serve an 18 to 22 year-old student...at least in the undergraduate degree granting space. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it's something that we need to address on a more regular basis. Our traditions, history, and monetary interests have driven our structures. However, "non-traditional" students are oftentimes relegated to the sidelines. Plus, those programs that typically grant undergraduate degrees that have been tailored for "non-traditional" students are often placed within online-degree-granting, super profitable (and increasingly more expensive) areas of higher education.
Based on what I've seen from their Twitter feed, Ellucian is definitely making a push to produce content and services for schools who are wishing to ramp up their offerings for "non-traditional" students:
By the way, isn't it time that we stopped using "non-traditional" as a way to identify cohorts of individuals who have just as much of a right to learn, grow, and succeed as those who are labelled as being "traditional?" Language matters and we're all learners. The generally accepted primacy of "traditional" over "non-traditional" needs to fade. We're all students. That's why we call it life-long learning.
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