Nontraditional students are adults, 25 and older, who took time away from academia before beginning or continuing an undergraduate degree. There are a number of reasons why someone would postpone their postsecondary education, each unique to the individual. Some may have gone into the military with the hope of earning their college tuition. Others may have fulfilled a dream of globetrotting before deciding on their future. It may be that some wanted to get married and start families, or they had a sick relative to care for.
Whatever the reason, some students need to postpone college. However, the trend of adults returning to school is on the rise. Between 2000 and 2011, the number of nontraditional students enrolled in undergraduate programs rose 41%; they comprised 38% of all undergrads in 2011. Many of the colleges and universities on our list have degree programs, student associations or academic advisors specifically geared towards nontraditional students.
We created our rankings by first compiling a list of all schools with a nontraditional student body of 25% or higher. Using our standard methodology, we narrowed the list to only those schools that provide a high quality education, quantitatively speaking. In order to trim the list to 50 schools, we then looked at institutions that offered a range of degree programs at the baccalaureate level or higher.
There are some schools that offer online courses or select programs, but many online-only schools don’t report their student demographics, so such institutions weren’t included on our list. If you are interested in online education as a whole, be sure to refer to our list of the 100 best online colleges.
2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.