Skip Navigation

Nontraditional Undergraduates / Foreword


This report examines the postsecondary education participation of undergraduates who do not typify what many have considered a "traditional college student"-one who enrolls in college full time immediately after high school graduation. It begins by presenting recent enrollment trends for nontraditional students and then compares the persistence and attainment of these students with that of their traditional counterparts.

The enrollment trend analysis relies on data from the three administrations of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), occurring in 1986-87, 1989-90, and 1992-93. These periodic surveys, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, represent all postsecondary students and collect detailed information about their receipt of financial aid, educational expenses, and family background and demographics.

Nontraditional student enrollment trends are presented in two ways: first, according to each individual characteristic used to define a nontraditional student, and second, according to the degree to which undergraduates are nontraditional. That is, whether students are minimally, moderately, or highly nontraditional.

The persistence and attainment analysis is based on data from the second followup of the 1989-90 Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) Longitudinal Study, which was conducted in the spring of 1994. The base-year sample of this survey was derived from NPSAS:90, and thus represents students of all ages and backgrounds who first began their postsecondary education in 1989ñ90. Because the second BPS followup took place approximately 5 years after participants' first enrollment, it provides attainment rates for students completing associate's degrees and vocational certificates, as well as for those earning bachelor's degrees within 5 years. In addition, since the BPS survey is longitudinal, it provides information on both the timing and nature of departure from school for students who did not persist to attain a degree.

The estimates presented in the report were produced using the NPSAS:87, NPSAS:90, NPSAS:93, and BPS:90/94 Data Analysis Systems (DAS). The DAS, a microcomputer application that allows users to specify and generate their own tables from the NPSAS and BPS data, produces the design-adjusted standard errors that are necessary for testing the statistical significance of differences shown in the tables. For more information about the DAS, readers should consult Appendix B of this report.

[Highlights] Previous Table of Contents Next[Acknowledgments]