Higher Education Center Receives $950,000 Grant To Study Nontraditional
March 11, 2003--
The Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University
of Virginia has been awarded a $950,000 grant to study nontraditional
students and how they attain their educational goals.
Lumina Foundation, whose mission involves expanding access and success
in education beyond high school, has funded the two-year initiative.
The research will focus on nontraditional students’ access,
equitable opportunity, and success in postsecondary education through
such avenues as continuing education, distance and for-profit programs.
for nontraditional students represent one of the fastest-growing
areas in higher education,” said Brian Pusser, assistant professor
of higher education at U.Va. and co-leader of the study. “They
are offered in every state and on the Web, by public and private
two- and four-year colleges, and by for-profit institutions as well.”
study will look at what effects state and federal policies, funding
mechanisms and other factors have on nontraditional students’
access to degrees, training and credentials, as well as whether
they have the same opportunities for meeting their educational goals
as traditional students. The findings will provide a framework for
future research on policies and programs to improve access and equity.
programs for nontraditional learners have been expanded or created
in response to the call for institutions to become more entrepreneurial
and to raise additional funds,” Pusser said. “These
programs generate billions of dollars for the postsecondary enterprise,
yet there is a great deal that we don't know about how students
are using the programs, including how well students are served in
W. Breneman, University Professor and dean of the Curry School of
Education, will co-direct the study.
and federal policies that shape the opportunities available to nontraditional
learners will be a key aspect of the research agenda,” said
Breneman. “The states and the federal government have historically
done a great deal to facilitate the access and success of traditional
learners. Our goal is to determine to what extent these opportunities
for success can be extended to a very different population of postsecondary
the effort will be other Curry School faculty, including Sarah E.
Turner and Bruce M. Gansneder, colleagues at Harvard University,
North Carolina State University and at the University Continuing
Education Association in Washington, D.C.
study team will look at two- and four-year programs across the United
States, using existing data as well as collecting new information
from students, educational institutions and government entities.
Among the questions the team will seek to answer are:
are nontraditional students in continuing education programs?
do they live, and where do they enroll?
How much are they paying for their training, certificates and
degrees, and how do they finance that education?
they employed and is that employment full- or part-time?
To what socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups are they likely
What sort of skills, certificates, credentials, degrees and training
do they seek?
What sort of employment awaits them upon completion of their course
The U.S. Department of Education defines a nontraditional student
as someone with two of the following characteristics: has delayed
enrollment in postsecondary education following high school; has
enrolled in a postsecondary program on a part-time status; works
full time; is classified as financially independent for financial
aid purposes; has dependents other than a spouse; is a single parent;
or does not have a high school diploma.
Center for the Study of Higher Education, established in 1969 at
U.Va., is an instructional, research and service unit of the Curry
School of Education.
Lumina Foundation for Education is a private, independent foundation
based in Indianapolis. Through research, grants for innovative programs
and communication initiatives, the foundation addresses access and
educational success – particularly among underserved student
groups, including adult learners.
Virginia Carter, (434) 924-1036