Non-Traditional Minority Students Research Paper Starter

Non-Traditional Minority Students

(Research Starters)

Nontraditional minority students are a growing phenomenon in colleges and universities in the United States. As society becomes more global and diverse, individuals seeking higher education are requiring more complex services due to differences in culture and demographic shifts. This paper provides a general overview of the nontraditional minority student. For the purposes of this paper, the term "nontraditional minority student" will represent any individual who is underrepresented based on gender and/or racial/ethnic issues.

Keywords Adult Learners; Cultural Diversity; Demographics; Globalization; Life-long Learner; Minority Student; Non-Traditional Student; Postsecondary Education; Socioeconomic Status; Title III; Traditional Student


Since the founding of the United States, its citizens have placed an emphasis on education. The founders believed that the strength of a country was dependent on a well-educated workforce (Ely, 1997; Ntiri, 2001; Schuetze & Slowey, 2002; U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Therefore, it was believed that individuals educated in the basic skills (reading, writing, and arithmetic) provided the workforce with skilled employees, allowing the United States to become an independent country. In other words, a skilled and educated workforce allows a country to establish and maintain a viable society which leads to economic independence. In current times, the United States continues to place an emphasis on having a well educated work force (Ely, 1997; Ntiri, 2001; Schuetze & Slowey, 2002; U.S. Department of Education, 2006). In fact, the democratic process is dependent upon an educated workforce to sustain the economy (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).

One of mechanisms providing an educated workforce throughout the world is colleges and universities. In the United States, the changes in the demographics of society are being recognized as a new challenge for colleges and universities. As such, these demographic changes will significantly influence the higher education system over the next 20 years (Ely, 1997; Miller & Lu, 2003; Ntiri, 2001; Schuetze & Slowey, 2002; U.S. Department of Education, 2006).

Effects of Demographic Changes

Demographic changes affecting colleges and universities include an increase in the number of individuals reaching retirement age; the growing minority population; gender issues; and, technological changes which are causing a need for older individuals to return to classes in order to update and/or maintain skill sets. One of the most significant changes occurring is the retirement of the baby boom generation. As this generation retires or becomes eligible to retire, the workforce will need to replace these individuals. Many of the baby boom generation jobs require education beyond high school (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Additionally, as the average lifespan of Americans continues to increase, new jobs will develop in response to meeting the needs of these individuals.


As the minority population continues to grow faster than the white population, educational systems will need to continue to be flexible and learn about the diversity of the community they serve. In other words, the educational system will have to respond to the differences such as values and the obstacles faced by single parent homes.


A significant change in college and university student populations is related to gender. In the early twenty-first century, more than half of all college degrees, undergraduate and graduate, are being awarded to women. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2009–10 school year, women earned 57.4 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 62.6 percent of master’s degrees, and 53.3 percent of doctorates (U.S. Department of Education, 2012).

Effects of Technology

Another change is the technological advancements which have led to the globalization of society. The rapid technological developments and advancements have increased the need to have a highly trained work force that is able to use and access knowledge quickly to solve problems, versus rote memorization of solutions (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). As such, information can be accessed twenty-four hours a day from anywhere in the world. The rapid and immediate exchange of information will present an ongoing challenge to colleges and universities who are used to educating individuals in traditional brick and mortar buildings (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).

While all of the issues mentioned are simultaneously impacting the delivery of higher education, an issue that continues to be debated is that of the minority student. Layered on top of this issue is the individual who is considered to be a minority (i.e., gender, racial and/or ethnic differences) and a nontraditional student. This paper will provide an overview of the nontraditional minority student enrolling in postsecondary education.

The Higher Education System in the United States

In terms of education, much of American society is focused on advancements and changes in the K-12 curriculum. A report issued by the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education stated that the United States set the standard for higher education (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). For instance, the First Morrill Act created land-grant universities, and the G. I. Bill made higher education accessible for many returning servicemen from World War II. More recent changes have included the growth of community colleges. As many universities adopt admissions standards, community colleges have allowed many individuals to pursue educational opportunities beyond high school (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).

Education is considered a change agent for individuals from diverse backgrounds. It is recognized that not everyone should attend a university (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). However, a growing position is that everyone should receive some type of education beyond high school. Options include community colleges, technical schools, and/or trade schools. Again, the need for an educated workforce is vital for the American economy to be sustained. Higher education administrators are recognizing that postsecondary education is not only for the academically elite but for everyone.

Education should be an opportunity to for any individual, regardless of socioeconomic status, racial and/or ethnic diversity, or gender, to gain the skills necessary to be an independent and successful member of a community and nation. In other words, education provides the individual with the tools necessary to achieve social mobility (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Higher education should be thought of as a mechanism to allow each individual to pursue educational goals which allow a stable and viable economic system.

Title III

The purpose of this essay is not to provide in-depth knowledge of all of the laws and federal programs available to minority or nontraditional students. However, a brief discussion of the Title III program is warranted. Title III was originally authorized in 1965 as a federally funded program which assists colleges and universities in the provision of educational opportunities to students who are low-income and/or minority students (Slark, Umdenstock, & Obler, 1997). In the late 1960s, students who were either low-income and/or minority were defined as nontraditional students.

Slark, Umdenstock, and Obler, (1997) Title III is divided into two distinct parts. Part A funds are used to allow low-income minority students educational opportunities and Part B funds were designated to provide funding to predominately black higher education institutions. Colleges and universities must apply for the funds and demonstrate that the institution serves an underrepresented group (Slark, Umdenstock, & Obler, 1997).

Slark, Umdenstock, and Obler (1997) stated that Title III funds have been used to cause an organizational change in higher education. This change has assisted higher education in recognizing that educating small numbers of individuals were not as effective as educating other members of society. A byproduct of this change is the reorganization of institutions of higher education realizing that many students are becoming lifelong learners as opposed to just maintaining the traditional institutional values (Slark, Umdenstock, & Obler, 1997).

Further Insights

Demographic Changes

Demographic changes are causing a shift in the cultural makeup of the United States. In terms of the higher education system, the demographic changes along with the changes in workforce (i.e., retirement, shortages in health care, education, etc.) are forcing the higher education system to examine practice and policy for individuals who are minority and/or nontraditional students.

In terms of education, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has shown that participation rates among individuals who represent ethnic minority groups are growing faster than those of the white population. It is predicted that this shift in student demographics will continue to occur over the coming decades.

In terms of enrollment in colleges and universities, the NCES projects an increase between 2010 and 2021 of 4 percent for white students; 25 percent for black students; 42 percent for Hispanic students; 20 percent for Asian or...

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