JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas State University in Jonesboro told Region 8 News over the weekend it expects to have record student enrollment for the upcoming academic year. While official enrollment numbers will not be released until early-September, the university said more people attending school are non-traditional students.
"There's one that's out there which is the economy. A lot of people are coming back. Maybe their income has changed. Maybe their job focused has changed. They want to come back and get an education," said Dr. Rick Stripling, ASU Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs.
Stripling told Region 8 News Monday Arkansas State University has one of the largest enrollments of non-traditional students of 4-year schools in Arkansas.
"Some of the harder hit areas and the economy can be part of the reason for contributing to that. We've had the non-traditional student enrollment and it has been something that we've been up in for the last several years," said Stripling.
Stripling said the economy is one factor for higher non-traditional student numbers, but several people attend college post-retirement.
"For those people, it's really an optimum time to come and to participate in the learning opportunity without any restrictions or pressure on them. We do have the people who are out to retool for a new career here at mid-life," said Stripling.
Stripling said non-traditional students typically have a stronger will to study and perform well in school because they have families who depend on them.
"They're here and they're serious and their enrollment here in their academic pursuits so it means more to them," said Stripling.
Stripling also said non-traditional students can influence the college atmosphere. Some students right out of high school witness how serious school is taken and follow their lead.
"They can set an example and also a lot on the design of the classes, working in study groups, they can see the seriousness of it so I think it has an influence and direct contact with regular students," said Stripling
Region 8 News wanted to know why these non-traditional students were hitting the books. Both students interviewed said they had kids to support and a sense of personal satisfaction to fulfill.
"I have a lot more motivation to get my goals accomplished," said Lindsey Coker, mother of one.
Coker said she's hoping to graduate in 4 years with a degree in marketing. She's been away from college 2 years.
"I had a kid. It was way too hard to go to school right when he was born, so I took a few years off. I decided it was probably my best just to come back," said Coker. "You can't do anything without an education. You got to have one to do what you want to do."
The struggling national economy has also forced some families to rethink their lives. Melissa Mobley was a stay-at-home mother of 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls.
"My husband went to Ole Miss and he was in school about 10 years ago. I went back that time. I've been graduated from high school about 15 years," said Mobley.
Mobley said she dropped out of college so she could work full-time while her husband obtained his Master's Degree.
"I have 4 children. My husband has been unemployed for 6 months, which has put us in a different bracket. You go through a learning process and say, 'Let's back up. Let's reevaluate,' and I just want to go back to school for me. That way, if this happens again and we're put in this position again, we'll have a back up and I'll be able to work," said Mobley.
Mobley said there are many challenges in going back to college. She has 23 hours of class work behind her, most of which transferred over. She's still classified as a freshman.
"The things of learning how to write an essay or how to do an algebra problem. Those things are going to have to be things I get myself used to again," said Mobley.
Mobley also said she hopes to learn more than ever while in college. She's taking basic courses and hopes to graduate in 3 years.
"This sounds corny, but I'm excited about learning and doing something for me. You know, being at home and I would not trade my life for anything. I love being a stay-at-home mom and I love being able to have my house work in the way I want it working," said Mobley. "I'm looking forward to doing something for me and learning on a different level. Being able to use what I learned and get paid for it. It'd be nice and bring some income in that I might be able to use to do something for me."
Mobley said she hopes to acquire her degree quickly to help her husband support her family.
"With my husband being unemployed, he has been able to kind of take over those things and I've had to step outside the home. It has been kind of hard because I don't know what's up-to-date and what's out there and what's current. I've had to learn that and it's been a little difficult," said Mobley. "I think the most important thing is that he's been such an encouragement for me."
"I was a mom, stay-at-home. My husband had a great job with great benefits and a great income to allow me to do that. I've been able to raise my 4 children and stay at home, which I'm so grateful for," said Mobley. "I did some substituting at the end of last year, which was great. It got me really motivated to do what I want to do and that's to be a teacher."
Stripling said most universities in the state of Arkansas attract approximately 20% non-traditional students; however, he said education is important for every student.
"Higher education is paramount to the success of anyone for the future and a better paying job. That's what all the studies show and all the statistics show. Being able to get a job and being able to get a higher paying job is essentially going to require that college degree," said Stripling.