The "traditional" student is not typical. Fully three-quarters of all postsecondary students in 1999–2000 had at least one nontraditional characteristic. The most highly nontraditional students (those with four or more nontraditional characteristics) were concentrated in public 2-year institutions, with two-thirds enrolled in this type of institution.
Two-thirds of highly nontraditional students perceived their primary role to be that of an employee, suggesting that school did not have first claim on their time and energy. Among highly nontraditional students who considered themselves primarily students, many found that work limited their class and scheduling options.
Among beginning postsecondary students seeking bachelor’s and associate’s degrees, nontraditional students were much more likely than traditional students to leave without earning any degree. They were most at risk of dropping out in their first year. Compared with their traditional counterparts, nontraditional beginning students who left their first institution were more likely to leave postsecondary education altogether and less likely to transfer downward. The percentages who interrupted their enrollment were similar for the two groups.