Issues for non-traditional undergraduate students living in traditional college and university residence halls : a modified Delphi study
This study identified issues, problems, barriers and opportunities which impact the residential experience for non-traditional undergraduate students living in traditional college and university residence halls. Non-traditional students were defined as students twenty-five years of age or older. The study utilized two distinct research methods; a demographic survey of chief housing officers and the modified Delphi study of non-traditional students' impressions and issues to be considered as barriers and enablers in their residence hall experience.Chief housing officers from 101 institutions within a four state area in the Midwest reported 7180 non-traditional students currently living in traditional residence halls. Most chief housing officers were aware of these students on campus, but many of the officers wrote that because this was a negligible number of students, little had been done especially to accommodate this group.Chief housing officers identified the following top five needs of non-traditional students: 1) quiet and privacy, 2) contractual arrangements, 3) issues related to living and relating to others, 4 family issues, and 5) special programming. Four of the top five needs were analyzed by the researcher as institutional barriers according to Cross' Chain of Response (COR) Model; other barriers identified included dispositional barriers and situational barriers.The chief housing officers most frequently reported the following plans to meet the needs of non-traditional students~ 1) to alter contractual arrangements, 2) to renovate facilities, 3) to group students together, and 4) to develop special services or policies.The 30 non-traditional students who participated in the modified Delphi study identified barriers as unique needs or issues that adversely affected their participation or satisfaction with overall residence hall experiences. The top five barriers they identified were: 1) difficulties due to maturity differences, 2) too much noise, 3) not having housing over breaks, 4) lack of same age companionship, and 5) policies that were too restrictive for adult life styles. Three of the top five barriers were analyzed by the researcher as institutional barriers; others were analyzed as situational or dispositional barriers.The non-traditional students identified enablers as circumstances that positively affected their participation or satisfaction with overall residence hall experiences. The top five enablers identified were: 1) accessibility to campus facilities and resources, 2) convenience, 3) enhanced academic focus while living on campus, 4) greater involvement in the institution, and 5) increased faculty contact and affordability (tied). Cross' COR Model likewise was applied, unconventionally, by the researcher to the enabling issues. Five of the six predominant enablers were analyzed as institutional enablers; others were analyzed as dispositional enablers.Suggested solutions to these barriers were offered by non-traditional students. Students either asked to be housed separately or treated differently from traditional age students, to have policies enforced consistently and more frequently, or to have programs and mechanisms in place to bring about greater interaction and ultimate appreciation of the differences between non-traditional and traditional students.