A non-traditional perspective

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By Jamie Sughroue, Opinion Editor

I’ve been married, currently hold a few jobs, have been financially independent for some time, and am 29 years old. I don’t fit the stereotype of the average college student, but as our economic climate shifts, so must our perspective.

My situation is becoming more common on college campuses, and as the student body grows increasingly diverse, we as a university need to make a significant effort to adapt to its needs.

Non-traditional status is based on the presence of one or more of seven possible non-traditional characteristics, according to www.nces.gov, including: “older than typical age, part-time attendance, being independent of parents, working full-time while enrolled, having dependents, being a single parent, and being a recipient of a GED or high school completion certificate.”

According to finaid.org, non-traditional students age 24-29 represent 13.8% of undergraduate students pursuing a Bachelor’s degree. Age 30 and above represent 14.4%. That’s a significant number of students who have unusual needs that may not be addressed adequately by their university.

Housing is such an issue, and there aren’t a lot of options for non-traditional students on the University of Nebraska Omaha campus.

The five dorms on campus feature four bedroom, apartment-style living arrangements. While that may be ideal for the incoming freshman, they aren’t appropriate for a twenty-something newly married couple, nor a mid-thirties recent veteran. Any student is welcome to live with younger roommates, but that can be significantly awkward.

I struggled to find resources for non-traditional students relating to on and off-campus housing on the UNO website. It links to another page that has housing-related suggestions for international students, including nearby apartment complexes, but that’s all. Otherwise, it doesn’t address non-traditional student housing needs.

A brief phone call with the housing office led to a similar conclusion. While friendly and earnest, they too said there’s no specific on-campus housing for non-traditional students aside from the dorms. They were happy to recommend other options.

The website also states that while living on-campus is not required at UNO, it can make “your college experience more meaningful.” I agree. So why are so many students excluded from this meaningful experience because they come from “non-standard” life situations?

Sure, we can drive to campus to attend the homecoming festivities or watch a movie on Caniglia Field. But will we make that extra effort? Do we have the time and resources to do so? Not necessarily.

Living on campus has a lot of perks, including the social and emotional connections felt toward fellow classmates and the university by being present the majority of the time.

That sense of community and belonging can’t be undervalued as a life-changing college experience.

I realize that we can’t accommodate everyone, that some will always be left behind. Some things aren’t practical to implement, and others may be too expensive. But if there are changes that can be made, why aren’t we doing them?

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