Redefining the “nontraditional student”

Regina Ivy and Regina Ivy

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Bruce Beard found himself back in college while much older than his classmates, but he came back because he wanted to help his son with the math homework he was doing. 

He is not alone in returning to Lincoln Land, where the average student age is 25, which is above the definition of “traditional college student” 

Some people at Lincoln Land say that the nontraditional student is the traditional student here. 

The term “nontraditional student” has been difficult to define, they are typically over the age of 24. Most work full time jobs or find themselves having to raise a family while still having the responsibility of taking classes.  

According to the college, 35 percent of students who attend Lincoln Land are 25 years of age or older. Sixty percent of students are attending part time, and 20 percent are first generation college students. 

61-year-old graduate Sherri Mitchell saw an opportunity to peruse her passion for theatrical arts and music when the opportunity was presented to her. After being in UIS’s production of Macbeth, she did not miss her chance to enroll in classes at UIS and get a degree in theater, while minoring in music 

“It is not easy to go back to school in this high-tech age,” Mitchell said. “Thankfully, I decided to keep trying. In my experience, instructors and fellow students alike are eager to assist. Instructors want students to succeed. If the student has a good attitude and work ethic, instructors will bend over backward to help.”  

Lincoln Land’s faculty wants all students to have a similar experience to Sherri’s. Services such as the library circulation system, peer tutoring or the writing center are things that everyone can use, as long as they are enrolled in any class under Lincoln Land’s name.  

Bob Immel, 57, started Lincoln Land right after graduating high school. He never graduated and left the area until he came back in 2015 to take care of his aging parents, which is when he decided to go back to school.  

“I was never invited to attend an orientation or introduced to any of the learning center staff.” 57-year-old student Immel said. 

 There are many students like Bob that feel as if there could be more effort and attention towards accommodating those coming back to school after a long break from it, especially if those people have lives outside of going to school.  

Immel said it wouldn’t hurt to “have a program for older adults to be able to regain the skills of how to study, take notes in class, etc. For Bruce, online classes and the flexibility of scheduling classes at Lincoln Land is key to what most non-traditional students need. 

Nichole Henderson, 26, another former student at LLCC felt that her online class experienced prepared her for her situation now. 

 “Getting a doctoral degree was something that I have wanted to do for a while,” Henderson said. She was inspired as a nurse by those she knew at St. John’s Hospital. “I thought that I would just get done now because I’ve only heard that it gets harder as you get older” 

There are plenty of students at Lincoln Land who are traditional, which means they are coming straight from high school. 

Give your all to your education. Devote yourselves entirely to this adventure. Learning from gifted teachers is such a privilege,” Sherri Mitchell says to young college students