Nurturing Post-Traditional Students


By: Emma Rose Aug 07, 2019

Nurturing Post-Traditional Students

Nurturing post-traditional student prospects is something that every institution must do to be successful. In a new eBook, Education Dynamics explores what drives post-traditional students and offers actionable insights to help you effectively attract post-traditional students to your school.

Many schools are still failing to reach post-traditional students, or worse, are reaching them and then losing them. Why? Because post-traditional learners are different from traditional learners in a handful of vital ways. Knowing what these are, and more importantly, what to do about it, can dramatically improve your results.

How post-traditional students are different

Research by Carol B. Aslanian of Aslanian Market Research, a Division of EducationDynamics, has shown us how post-traditional students differ from the classic image of a college student. While a traditional student is likely to be 18 to 24, fresh out of high school, and focused on school as their top priority, none of that is true for the post-traditional student.

Post traditional students are students who meet some or all of the following criteria:

  • Enrolled part time or full-time
  • Lives off campus
  • Is at least 24 years old
  • Uses multiple learning formats (online, classroom and hybrid)
  • Primarily seeks career-related degrees
  • Expects flexible schedules
  • Has a full or part-time job

Is it any surprise that their needs are drastically different from that of an 18 year old, full-time student who is still waiting for the ink to dry on their diploma? If you want to enroll these students, you simply have no choice but to redesign your approach and communication to meet their needs.

There’s no point in talking to post-traditional students about your amazing extracurricular opportunities, affordable meal plans, or fun student mixers. The odds are good that they’ll never use any of these, no matter how wonderful they are. Many will never even step on your campus while they are enrolled.

EducationDynamics Nurturing Report

Post-traditional students are a growing cohort

Learning how to market to post-traditional students is a matter of survival for many institutions because this population is becoming a majority. According to the report Post-traditional College Students: attracting and serving the new majority, about 30 percent of students are 25 years old or older. Of course, age isn’t the only factor. Up to 40 percent of undergraduate students study at night, live off-campus, or are enrolled part time.

A look at post-traditional graduate students shows that while more are enrolling full-time than ever before, they also tend to be older. According to the report Post-Traditional Graduate Students: Insight for program development and marketing, the number of graduate students aged 25-29 is growing at a rate nearly twice that of students aged 22-24.
Reframing the value proposition

These students are likely to have jobs, families and other demanding responsibilities. Their focus is not on having an amazing college experience. Instead, they’re wondering whether they can fit earning a degree into their busy lifestyle.

If you attract these students with promises of low tuition and flexible schedules, you’re likely to take notice. However, if you follow-up with conversations about student life and extracurriculars you might actually drive non-traditional students away. They’ll quickly begin to suspect that you don’t understand their needs and won’t be able to meet them.

So what do post-traditional students care about? A whole constellation of things, but the most important are:

  1. Cost of tuition and fees
  2. Flexibility of course schedules
  3. Distance to your institution
  4. Availability of online courses
  5. Length of time to completion

Institutions that want to see positive results, need to learn how to communicate their value proposition in these terms. Doing so will involve cohesive messaging, staff training and the ability to listen to what post-traditional students have to say.

To find out how to nurture post-traditional student leads to achieve higher enrollments, download our eBook: Nurturing Post-Traditional Students: What institutions need to know to succeed in the post-traditional market.