Report on ways to boost completion from nontraditional students can be found here.

The best way to support adult learners with varied obligations and responsibilities must include nontraditional support.

Though, as many of the experts contended, admission is not enough. Even the most driven students can fall behind when they don’t have access to basic goods — and that’s why administrators must think outside the box to provide supports students of the past may never have needed, said Goldrick-Rab. She suggests, for instance, that counselors consider food pantries.

“How many of us have thought instead of sending an academic advisor to talk to them about their math class that we might give them a meal plan?” she said. “Food pantries are a charitable response and there’s nothing wrong with them but you have to understand that no one has ever been prevented from becoming food insecure because of the campus food pantry,” she continued, adding colleges need to go beyond financial aid and offer students access to programs that do things like help with “filling out the paperwork” for access to services.

Nontraditional students do not study within systems that are designed for them. We have no reason not to adapt to their needs if we want them to not only survive, but thrive.

He also explains that the industry could do a better job of considering real life workforce skills as a type of credit eligible for graduation. And Oakley agreed, noting that this type of move must also happen in order for institutions to truly provide economic opportunity for these students and thus also meet the demands of the workforce.

“I think we need to put the focus every single day on those universities that are the gateway to students of color and low income students and that are providing real economic mobility,” said Oakley, noting that the pressure on elite schools doing that only is not going to make an impact. “These should not and cannot be terminal credentials. We’re trying to deal with a fast moving economy, and we need to ensure that these individuals have some economic security, otherwise their children who are coming through our pipeline are not going to have opportunity,” he said.

“They should be able to continue to pile up those credits and they should lead to a higher level credential [because] when you’re working all day long two and three jobs, it’s very difficult to just drop everything that you’re doing, attend one of our community colleges, wait three or four years and then get your credentials.”

The current model needs updating. Will schools continue to innovate, or will students be left further behind?

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