Nontraditional U students face different challenges

by Kori Koch

Joan Marolt remembers when the $1.70 per hour she worked hard for at Dayton’s department store paid her University tuition, which at the time cost $13 per credit.

During her final few semesters, Marolt took a break – that lasted 27 years – and now, the 51-year-old mother of two is one of thousands of nontraditional students at the University.

But beyond the increasing tuition costs all students face, nontraditional students take on different challenges every day that many students might never notice.

Drastic lifestyle adjustments come with the territory for nontraditional students. These include juggling family time, financial responsibilities and learning alongside students who might be half their age.

According to Office of Institutional Research and Reporting spring semester statistics, 13,598 University students are 25 to 34 years old, and 5,409 are at least 35 years old.

Many of the nontraditional students are returning to the University to finish degrees or take extra classes.

With hope of helping them, the Reentry Students Organization offers occasional meetings to provide information and support targeted at the older age group.

On Monday, participants discussed registration and financial aid at a workshop.

As a nontraditional student, organization co-chairman Mark McKay works on the committee to help others like himself.

McKay said his University experience is generally positive. He said he doesn’t have problems with younger students because age differences aren’t always obvious, yet having to work with unmotivated students becomes frustrating.

To get the word out, McKay said, the group sends mass e-mails to all students who are older than 25.

Returning global studies senior Sandra Breuer said that she came to the organization for the first time Monday in hopes of learning valuable information she might have missed during orientation.

“It’s helpful sharing experiences with students in similar situations,” Breuer said.

Though their journeys back differ, some of the students said they notice younger students don’t always include them in group work.

Marolt said that she left in 1977 and came back last spring to study child psychology, but she still witnesses social behavior long forgotten.

“I noticed cliques among girls. In a few classes, I sometimes felt like an outlier,” she said.

Gayla Marie, a nontraditional University senior, said she struggles to socially connect with younger students in certain environments.

She also described feeling isolated by students and said she relates more easily to her instructors.

“Some students view me as a mother, while my instructors and counselors consider me their peer,” Marie said. “College provides the perfect grounds for that type of dismissive group behavior.”