- Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shows the vast majority of undergraduates are now classified as nontraditional, whether because they have dependents, are a single caregiver, delayed postsecondary enrollment, do not have a traditional high school diploma, are employed full-time, attend school part-time, or are independent of their parents for financial aid reasons.
- According to eCampus News, 74% of all undergrads in 2011-12 had at least one nontraditional characteristic and about one-third had two or three.
- The more such characteristics a student possesses, the more likely they are to take fully-online programs, with 12.4% of students with four or more characteristics were enrolled in online programs.
As colleges and universities figure out how to serve more students, opening access and improving student outcomes across the board, broadening the availability of programs offered entirely online may be a necessity. Nontraditional students, whether because of their work hours or their childcare needs, often require more flexible class schedules. Online offerings can give them that.
The latest NCES report incorporates information about 2011-12 undergraduates, the most recent year for which data is available. Among this cohort, students with dependents are more likely to enroll in for-profit institutions, indicating they find the flexibility they need in that sector.