by: Shirley Davis/Staff Writer
One look about campus and it is easy to see among the many young faces of the fall semester a great number of people who have come to college later in life to pursue further education: the non-traditional student. These people are studying to be truck drivers, nurses, and beauticians as well as a host of other professions. The average age of the Lake Land student is now 32, with 42% being over the age of 23, a break away from the old stereotype of a college student. By definition, a non-traditional student is someone who is not just out of high school but has been displaced from the work force in some manner or simply decides to gain the education needed to attain a better way of life. “I would tell anyone of any age it’s never too late to go back to school,” stated Susan Reed, a nursing student. “I had a job in a factory but they eliminated my job-leaving me without a job and no prospects of finding as good a paying job. I thought ‘what will I do?’ I decided to come to Lake Land and get my Registered Nursing Degree.”
Some return to school to get themselves off social security disability and are getting their education paid for by The Department of Human Services utilizing the Ticket to Work Program. One such person is named Andy Smith, “I got sick and could not work anymore so I went on disability. I’m better and the government is helping me get back on my feet,” Smith stated. For some going to college had always just been a dream, but thanks to programs such as Work and Learn – which is targeted toward the older student – for many, that dream is now a reality. Many of these students have their sights set on Eastern Illinois University or other four year universities to finish their education. Smith went on to say, “I plan on taking my business management as far as I can so I can write my own ticket in the work force.” Many non-traditional students who were interviewed agreed. One student who had been replaced in his job by a computer system stated “I was permanently laid off from another person’s business, now I plan to run a business of my own.”
Colleges are being flooded with non-traditional students. This is not just a trend here in Central Illinois, but a growing phenomenon in the United States since or because of the poor economy of recent years. This has sent many people looking for better professions. Non-traditional students bring wisdom and excitement to campus, along with valuable life lessons to share with their younger counterparts. The next time you take a walk about campus pay attention, you will see the smiling faces of non-traditional students, the new face of Lake Land College.