The non-traditional student population is on the rise at Texas State, and with it comes the need for a community for these students.
Non-traditional students account for 73 percent of college enrollment nationwide, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). At Texas State, the Non-Traditional Student Organization (NTSO) seeks to meet the needs of the expanding demographic by fostering a community for non-traditional students while encouraging them to make an impact on campus, said NTSO President Julian Davalos.
According to a Feb. 13 University Star article, Institutional Research showed 2,033 students at least 30 years old enrolled in fall 2012, compared to the 1,593 students in the same age group enrolled in fall 2007.
The term “non-traditional student” has historically been defined as someone more than 25 years old, but the definition has expanded over the years. The term encompasses those who have had a delay in their education including military veterans, parents, returning or transfer students, full-time workers and married students, according to the NCES.
The realities of such diverse life circumstances can make it difficult for non-traditional students to feel like they fit in at Texas State, said Andrew Alexander, graduate advisor for NTSO.
“One of the things I feel that non-traditional students struggle with is really feeling an attachment to the campus and campus community and feeling part of the campus culture,” Alexander said. “Oftentimes they have other obligations such as a full time-job or family and children. So what NTSO does is gives the non-traditional student a more comfortable environment as well as a connection to Texas State.”
Dan Shedd, electronic media senior, said he tried participating in other organizations, including a fraternity, before joining NTSO.
“I felt like an outsider being married and not being a typical college student,” Shedd said. “I finally decided I had to find something else that was a better fit. NTSO is that fit.”
Shedd said the organization’s culture of acceptance and flexible attendance policy are some of the reasons why he feels at home as a member.
“The NTSO people are really open,” Shedd said. “There is no judging. We come from all different backgrounds, but we’re all the same. And you can go as much or as little as you want. They understand that you have other commitments in your life.”
Among the benefits of membership is a private lounge in the LBJ Student Center, equipped with a refrigerator, microwave and coffee machine, Davalos said. There is a computer lab with unlimited printing and lockers available for rent. The amenities are available for a membership fee of $10 per semester, Davalos said. The organization provides networking and volunteer opportunities and offers at least one scholarship per semester.
“NTSO holds social events such as bowling and game nights and participates in homecoming activities,” Davalos said. “We volunteer with Bobcat Build and events sponsored by other organizations on campus. We are excited to recognize the non-traditional student graduates on campus with our first Non-Traditional Student Graduation Celebration in December.”
Davalos said approximately 50 applications have been submitted at this point in the semester. They are also hoping to bring in new members through the campus-wide events they plan to sponsor and by encouraging current members to tell their friends about the organization.
With such an increase over the years in non-traditional student enrollment, Alexander said spreading the word about the existence of NTSO is a priority.
“Based on some research we have done we actually know there is a very large portion of what could be considered the ‘non-traditional population’ that aren’t involved in NTSO, many of whom probably don’t even know about the organization,” Alexander said. “So our goal this year is to really reach out to the student body and try to find those students who haven’t heard of us yet or don’t know what we can offer to them.”