Non-traditional student gives voice to others at Lyon College

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – The route to college no longer begins after high school, as more and more adults pursue a degree later in life.

The Center for Education Statistics found that more than 40 percent of college students are now non-traditional adults. These students can be anyone from an 18 year old commuting from home to a parent taking classes part-time.

Lyon College in Batesville has seen the shift in demographics, and one of its students has started a group to attract the non-traditionals and give them a voice on campus.

"You can sit in your classroom, and you can pick out the ones that are not your traditional, typical college students," Tonya Clapp said.

Clapp is a junior at Lyon College, studying to become a middle school or high school English teacher. The mother of three balances two part-time jobs with a full load of classes, but her story is not unusual.

"We went from probably 30 or 40 students to nearly 80 students in just one year that are non-traditional students," Clapp noted, "so we understand that this is definitely needed for the community at Lyon College."

Clapp started the Non-Traditional Students Association, or NTSA, two years ago to meet the growing need. The NTSA provides resources for students like Clapp, who are often bogged down by their extracurricular responsibilities. The group now has 15 members, each proving he or she can juggle it all successfully.

"The reception that we've had from the campus was unbelievable," Clapp said. "I know that I'm getting the best foundation education here at Lyon College."

If anyone is thinking about returning to college, Clapp says support is key. She has gotten a lot of help from her daughters and husband, who often do the dishes and clean the house when she gets busy. She also attributes the smaller student population at Lyon to fostering a communal sense of success.

"It doesn't matter how old you are," Clapp said. "You're going to be able to succeed in that situation."

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