Nontraditional students sacrifice for education

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Millennials aren’t the only generation that sees the demand for a college degree.

Nontraditional students, not “older students,” mind you, are those over the age of 25. They make up around 72 percent of college students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The center expects the number of nontraditional students to increase 23 percent by 2019, according to the study.

Every student comes from a different background, so every reason for returning to school is unique to the individual. No matter the situation, I imagine it was a hard decision for the students to make. It’s tough enough for me to jump through the college hoops without my own family to support or my own home to finance.

Emily Murie, a 38-year-old junior English major from Las Vegas, was busy raising two kids before returning to school.

“[I chose to go back to school] so that I could get a job,” Murie said. “I was mostly a stay-at-home mom.”

Technology is something that made Murie’s return to college easier.

“One thing that’s different from before is if I was doing a research paper, I’d have to go to the library and check out books and read,” Murie said. “Now I can just Google [the information].”

Financial and economic barriers concern students of any age, especially nontraditional students. Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree earn 62 percent more money than those with just a high school diploma.

Anthony Cirrito, a 61-year-old junior communication major from St. George, said nontraditional students are working against the clock.

“One day, we’re all going to be retiring,” Cirrito said. “We’re retiring with an income that allows us to live a life of comfort versus poverty. Most Americans are coming back to school because they need the additional education to be relevant in the workforce. That relevance gives them additional time on the clock, so to speak, to prepare them for their retirement.”

Cirrito praised Dixie State University for its attitude toward nontraditional students.

“Dixie, and the staff at Dixie, [is] wonderful,” Cirrito said. “They have a great desire toward nontraditional students’ success. They go the extra mile because they know the nontraditional student is willing to do the work.”

Nontraditional students may be more willing to work than millennials, but their options are limited or nonexistent compared to younger students.

“The nontraditional student is driven without option,” Cirrito said. “If I don’t [come back to school], I’m moving backward. The economy doesn’t hold for standstill. It has to move forward.”

My mom was a nontraditional student driven without option. When my dad got sick and couldn’t work, it became her responsibility to support the four of us.

It took her just under two years to complete her master’s degree with little support and finances. I don’t know where my family would be right now if she didn’t return to school. All I know is that my whole world would’ve been shaped differently.

I’ve seen firsthand what nontraditional students can accomplish, so I commend them for the sacrifices they are making for themselves and their families.