U hosts second annual Non-traditional Students Week.

Student-parents, first-generation college students, veterans and undergraduates older than 24 all have one thing in common: theyâÄôre considered non-traditional students by the University of Minnesota. To increase awareness about these students, Non-traditional Student Week, which informed such students about available resources and provided a networking lunch, was held last week . The week is organized at a time when the number of non-traditional students could increase with an anticipated surge in older adults seeking a college education. The University has had a Non-traditional Student Advisory Committee since spring 2003 , but this is the first year the University has assigned the group a vice provost. Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for the group and vice provost of student affairs, said the average age of students is expected to grow as the number of older adults transferring into the University increases over the next 10 to 15 years. He said the committee will allow the University to track trends in these groups and better provide support for such students. Susan Warfield, director of the Student Parent HELP Center , attributes the expected increase in older than average students to changes in the economy and the shift toward more knowledge and technology-based jobs. Another trend bringing more older-than-average students to colleges is the pursuit of what Warfield called âÄúheart careers,âÄù in which people who already have undergraduate degrees have the time and money to go back for another degree. More than 10 percent of undergraduates enrolled at the start of the 2008 school year were older than 24, according to University statistics . Special challenges Duane Bauer , a higher education program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs , said all veteran students are considered non-traditional because of their unique life experiences. Bauer said more than 9,000 students in the metro area have received veteranâÄôs benefits for themselves or their family members over the past year. As for first-generation college students, Warfield said theyâÄôre at a greater risk for having difficulties during college than students whose parents are familiar with the college process. âÄúThey donâÄôt have a parent who understands how to help them with their FAFSA or with their application or tell them stories about when they went to college,âÄù she said. âÄúTheyâÄôre kind of operating in the dark.âÄù Older students often have more responsibilities than traditional students, because they may have to balance classes and homework with caring for a family. Mark McKay is now a Ph.D. linguistics student , but back in 2004, he transferred into the University as an older-than-average undergraduate. McKay, who juggled his responsibilities as a student while working and paying a mortgage, said his special needs as an older-than-average transfer student werenâÄôt met. âÄúYouâÄôre treated the same as any other transfer student,âÄù he said. âÄúThey really didnâÄôt provide much assistance for us.âÄù University efforts Rinehart said the University recognizes that non-traditional students make up a large portion of undergraduates. âÄúOften times, I think some people think weâÄôre only concerned about the freshman student who completes in four years, but we are concerned about all of our students,âÄù he said. The Student Parent HELP Center provides academic, financial and family support to parents and financial aid to low-income students, including childcare grants. At 41, Anne Daniels , a nutrition junior, has a full class-load, a part-time job and a family: SheâÄôs the mother of a 12- and 15-year-old. She said sheâÄôs relied upon the supportive community provided by the student parent center. âÄúItâÄôs really nice to hear what struggles others are dealing with and know youâÄôre really not swimming alone,âÄù she said. Veterans in need of financial, education or family assistance have the Veterans Resource Office, and the Veterans Transition Center is a gathering place for veterans. TRiO Student Support Services offers selected first-generation freshmen academic support and leadership development Older-than-average students, who can fall into one or more of the other groups, donâÄôt have such specific services available to them. Rinehart attributes this to the desires of older-than-average students. âÄúMany of those students express being quite comfortable and confident that they can take care of themselves and donâÄôt want the University to be in their face, so we try to be respectful but also let them know that there are resources available,âÄù Rinehart said. But McKay, who started with the Non-traditional Student Advisory Committee in his first year, said he continues to advocate for older students because he feels resources for them are somewhat lacking at the University. Guidance and social activities are geared toward traditional students, he said. While student parents and veterans have designated centers, older-than-average students donâÄôt have a specific space or special services. âÄúThe University needs to take some responsibility for that and make sure that demographic is taken care of as well,âÄù he said.