Supporting Non-traditional Student Persistence

March 6, 2023
  • Nontraditional Students
Group of non traditional students in a classroom.

Higher education continues to see a rise in non-traditional student enrollment. These students often face unique challenges that impact their ability to persist. In the latest C&U, authors Marlene Blake, Sushil Jindal, and Nowai Keleekai-Brapoh take a closer look at the types of resources and support that might benefit this student population.

Given the growing number of nontraditional students set to outpace traditional students, it is imperative that evidence-based strategies to improve overall academic success, including persistence and graduation rates, are implemented, they wrote. Nontraditional students are an incredibly diverse group with unique backgrounds and needs, and their motivations to enroll, persist, and graduate varies depending on factors internal and external to the college and are often dissimilar to their traditional-aged counterparts.

The authors provided a narrative literature review to identify strategies to support the persistence of non-traditional students in practitioner-based programs. They also looked at strategies to support persistence in non-practitioner-based programs. These strategies included providing:

  • effective academic advising;

  • an environment for social connectedness;

  • approachable faculty and staff;

  • a satisfying learning experience;

  • student support services;

  • socialization with other students and faculty from the university and academic program;

  • ongoing individual and group academic coaching; and

  • personalized early alert/early intervention systems.

Additional retention strategies focused on: encouraging students to embrace support from family, friends, fellow peers, and faculty; providing collaboration opportunities; and providing resources while creating consistent support to clarify program requirements and create connections, they wrote. 

The authors offered several recommendations based on their research, including: early alert systems; communication through social media and text messaging; and faculty engagement, including expectations, feedback, and motivation. 

Insights from this study can inform administrative decision-making as institutions seek evidence-based strategies to increase persistence rates of nontraditional students, they wrote.

Other articles in this issue include: 


  • Financial Aid Eligibility: Fundamental Concepts for College Administrators by Stephen McDowell
  • Interview with John Gardner by Dawn Aubry
  • The Freshman Year Experience by John N. Gardner


Research in Brief

  • Establishing the Value of AACRAO: Exploring Member Experiences and Engagement Opportunities by Seth Kamen and Christine Apple
  • Cultural Integrity in College Bridge Programs: A Cultural Analysis by Newsoul Deus

Campus Viewpoint

  • Management vs. Leadership, Would You Rather? by Katie Cloud and Aimee Leturmy
  • Bringing Services to the Student by Building Institutional Relationships by Amanda Kruzona

The AACRAO Review

  • The Great Upheaval: Higher Education’s Past, Present, and Uncertain Future reviewed by Stephen Handel
  • The Future of American Higher Education: How Today’s Public Intellectuals Frame the Debate reviewed by Patrick Tanner
  • The State Must Provide: Why America's Colleges Have Always Been Unequal--and How to Set Them Right reviewed by Kimberley Buster-Williams


AACRAO's bi-weekly professional development e-newsletter is open to members and non-members alike.