Nontraditional Students – What Kind Of College Degree Do You Need? – Growing up is a requirement for these young, non-traditional students. They are early risers and hard workers. Some are the first in their families to go to college. Many of them are financially independent from their parents. Meet today’s “non-traditional” students.
Meet today’s “non-traditional” students. From left: Evan Spencer, Kim Embe, Bailey Novak, Diana Platas and Eric Ramos. hide title
Nontraditional Students – What Kind Of College Degree Do You Need?
Meet today’s “non-traditional” students. From left: Evan Spencer, Kim Embe, Bailey Novak, Diana Platas and Eric Ramos.
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They are early risers and hard workers. They have the “talent to fight” and the determination that comes from it. Some are the first in their families to attend college or even graduate from high school, and many are financially independent from their parents. They often struggle to pay for rent, food and transportation while on courses. And that means working while in school—at retail, on campus, or even at a lawn care business.
Meet today’s “non-traditional” students. Although they are among the approximately 12.3 million college students under the age of 25, their lives look very different from the “typical” college student we see in movies and on television.
Eric Ramos says he’s still not sure if he likes college, but he sees it as the best way to help his family financially. Camille Phillips/Texas Public Radio hides the caption
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Eric Ramos says he’s still not sure if he likes college, but he sees it as the best way to help his family financially.
Eric Ramos says he has been poor all his life. His mother always told him: “Go to school. You will be better,” he says. But it was not easy.
Ramos is the youngest of three brothers and the first in his family to graduate from high school. He lives and supports his mother and one of his brothers in San Antonio.
“I pay the electricity bill,” Ramos said. “I pay half the rent; some grocery bills. I have to pay my mother because she needs it. I have to pay for my car.”
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When he first entered San Antonio College in the fall, he thought he could juggle three classes and a full-time job at a sporting goods store.
But in the first weeks of classes, 19-year-old Ramos fell behind. He got sick and missed a few days – the same days his instructors were talking about online assignments. He says that he has not studied these assignments before a month has passed since the semester. Finally, when I entered the online portal, there were several zeros in the price book.
“I actually failed about 30 [%] of the class,” says Ramos, sitting on a bench outside the campus library. “I’m kind of disappointed that I wasn’t notified. But it’s my fault because I missed two days of school. That’s a lot for college.”
He says that if he had known how important those first weeks were, he would have gone to class even though he was sick.
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After that, Ramos says, he reduced his hours and was able to raise his prices enough to pass.
He plans to get a certificate in information technology and find a better-paying job in tech support, then work and go to school until he gets an associate’s degree in cybersecurity.
Ramos says he’s still not sure if he likes college, but he sees it as the best way to help his family financially.
“I want more because I’ve been through it: I know what it’s like to be homeless and have no money and nothing to eat for about two days.”
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“The pressure is on me,” he says. “They think I’m going to be the one to run.”
Bailey Novak says she feels being a first-generation college student puts her at a disadvantage. K. Provenz/Wyoming Public Radio hide caption
Bailey Novak has been running her own lawn care business since she was 12 years old. Earnings from that business helped 21-year-old Novak attend community college in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyo., for two years.
But when he transferred to the University of Wyoming in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing, he discovered his seasonal earnings wouldn’t go very far.
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Tuition in Cheyenne was low, and Novak lived with his parents. In Laramie, tuition went up and rent had to be paid. She had to find a second job on campus, helping other students write resumes and prepare for job interviews.
Neither of Novak’s parents went to college. She says they supported her decision to leave, but they couldn’t support her financially, so she pays for it herself. She prides herself on her ability to take care of herself, but she knows she’s missing out. She sees how easy it is for friends outside of work to join student clubs and networking opportunities, things she struggles to find time for.
“I would have had the same college experience as any other student,” she says, if she didn’t have to work.
This could be possible with the help of more state scholarships. High school students must meet certain ACT and GPA requirements to be eligible. Novak believes she missed out on thousands of dollars by not studying for the ACT. He says he didn’t know what the danger was at the time.
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He remembers hearing about the scholarship in eighth grade, but it wasn’t mentioned again until he applied to community college. And it was too late to raise his ACT score by two points to get the most out of the scholarship.
“[They] had to tell young people … higher ACT scores meant higher scholarship money,” Novak says with a hint of frustration. “That would help me.”
Looking back, he says being a first-generation college student put him at a disadvantage. He thinks of a friend who has parents
Went to college “They prepared him a lot for the ACT,” Novak said. “He studied every night; he should have gone to the teachers.”
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Despite all the difficulties, Novak says, “I’m where I need to be.” He still received the stipend, but in a smaller amount. He is on track to graduate in the spring of 2020 and is looking at a real estate practice in Cheyenne when he is done. Ultimately, he wants to use his degree to expand his lawn care business.
While studying, Diana Platas lives at home with her family and works part-time. Lauren Elliott hides the title
As long as Diana Platas wanted to be an immigration lawyer. He says he was inspired by something he saw on Univision: a lawyer helping families of undocumented immigrants in the United States. These families are very similar to him.
Platas, 21, is a DREAMer — her parents moved to Houston from Monterrey, Mexico, when she was 2 years old. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school — neither of his parents did — and in December he became the first person to earn a college degree since graduating a year and a half ago with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
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“Being first-generation, it’s hard to just get into college because you don’t know how to prepare for it,” Platas says. And while learning the process, he also had to explain it to his parents.
Then there was the money. His parents have blue-collar jobs, and as a Dreamer, he can’t apply for federal financial aid, only state aid. So in high school, his parents sat him down at the kitchen table and asked him to give up his college plans.
He was broke — until a cousin told him about a more affordable option: Downtown University of Houston, a public university with no dorms that caters mostly to students of color. He applied for and received a full merit scholarship for freshmen.
Platas took college courses in high school, but she says navigating a college campus, enrolling in classes, and applying for state financial aid was new and overwhelming.
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“I was afraid, I was afraid. It was a different experience. But I felt welcome here, and the teachers I met in the first weeks of orientation made me feel more prepared.”
Platas studies regularly. Like many of his classmates, he lived at home with his family and worked part-time.
After Hurricane Harvey in 2017, her home was flooded and she had to rely on friends and family to stay afloat. All the movement made it difficult to focus on schoolwork, and Platas sometimes slept on the couch in the student government office so he could get work done.
Now that she’s graduated, Platas hopes to start law school in the fall. One thing he learned while getting his degree, he says, is to just start doing it, not to
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