Sen. Clinton Unveils Plan to Help Nontraditional Students

By Lane, Kristina | Black Issues in Higher Education, March 11, 2004 | Go to article overview

Sen. Clinton Unveils Plan to Help Nontraditional Students


Lane, Kristina, Black Issues in Higher Education


Nontraditional students trying to get their college degrees tend to get short shift, according to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who recently proposed legislation to help improve graduation rates among these students and tear down some of the barriers they face.

Clinton announced the measure, known as the Non-Traditional Student Success Act and co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., at the Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C., last month.

She said the goal of the plan is to boost graduation rates among nontraditional students, because an individual's wages and earnings rise significantly once he or she obtains an associate's degree.

"Today, 39 percent of students at higher education institutions are 25 years or older, compared with 28 percent in 1970. Forty percent of undergraduates work full-time, up from just one-quarter 15 years ago. And close to 30 percent have children," Clinton said. "You know these students. You work with them every day. You know they are working hard to finish school, to provide for their families, to do the right thing. And they deserve our support."

Nontraditional students fall outside the age range of 18-24 year olds, and they often hold full- or part-time jobs and have families. According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, about 90 percent of community-college students are nontraditional.

These students not only grapple with daily-life challenges, Clinton said, but many also are intimidated by the college experience and afraid to ask for help if they struggle academically or don't understand something.

The Clinton-Graham initiative seeks to help more nontraditional students access financial aid in a number of ways.

Pell Grants would be available year-round trader the plan, and the maximum Pell award would increase from $4,050 to $11,600 during the course of the next five years. The plan proposes using the Internet and direct-mail campaigns to get the word out to nontraditional students about their financial-aid options.

The bill seeks also to increase the percentage of education expenses that could be counted toward the Lifetime Learning tax credit, from 20 percent to 50 percent, capping the credit at $2,000.

The measure also would: reward schools that offer flexible class schedules and child-care services; raise the level of funding for innovative remedial programs to $50 million; and offer more counseling to students struggling with social and cultural challenges by providing more funding for Student Support Service programs, GEAR-UP and College Assistance Migrant programs. …

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