(Photo by Tyler Brown) Students converse in the Non-Traditional Student Center. Two in five enrolled students do not graduate from college.
(Photos by Tyler Brown) Students converse in the Nontraditional Student Center. Of all students enrolled in college, 2 in 5 do not graduate.

20130904nontrad open house (Tyler Brown)-3On Dec. 13, hundreds of students will get to celebrate their achievements and graduate. They’ll celebrate, they’ll cry, and then it’s off to the real world. The ceremony is a passage from the end of one journey to the beginning of another.

However, while the opportunities to receive a college degree have increased significantly, so has the price of a college degree. For many, the cost of college is just too much. This has led many universities, including Weber State  University, to redouble their efforts to improve this issue.  However, there is still more that must be done.

While the help is out there, we need to ensure these students are graduating. According to USA Today, last year broke records with the enrollment of 21.6 million students at colleges and universities. Unfortunately, 2 in 5 of the students who enroll don’t ever graduate. Those who do not graduate typically are not only faced with being unable to attain their desired career, but they also tend to have student loans that need to be paid back.

In fall of 2012, the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment met in Washington D.C. The meeting featured representatives from six national higher-education associations. There were also leaders of small private universities, large public universities and even small community colleges. It was here that ideas were voiced on how to help students and improve efforts that were already being made. In January, the strategies discussed were published in a letter to college and university presidents.

One of the suggestions was to make better accommodations for the nontraditional students, as well as the students who are working. Many colleges have even begun to offer popular programs that feature classes at midnight. WSU is particularly accommodating to nontraditional students, offering many late-night classes as well the Nontraditional Student Center.

Making better use of data was another suggestion. They felt that it was necessary to be able to easily pinpoint those students who are in need of extra help by being able to easily track grades and academic history. This is something that Weber has come a long ways with, with CatTracks as well as Canvas. Another suggestion was offering incentives. Many states have proposed offering funding for students who complete their degrees.

I’m far from a nontraditional student; in fact, I’m as traditional as they come. I’m straight out of high school and work part-time. However, I too have my fair share of student loans that, if I don’t graduate, I don’t know how I’ll pay off. I also see the importance in nontraditional students. I see the value in them receiving an education. I also see all the diversity that they bring to our school, and they are just as deserving of graduation as the next person.

So, during our university’s commencement, there is great significance in the accomplishments our graduates have made. They’ve survived countless finals weeks and many other academic challenges. However, the fact remains that there are many more who are deserving of this same opportunity.

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