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In broad terms, the word population essentially means the total number of men and women living in a particular place or area. In line to our topic of concentration, the population is the constitution men and/or women who make up the adult students and commuter students in a higher learning institution.
Who is an adult learner? An adult learner is an individual who is involved in any form of learning, and one has the age of over 25 years. An adult learner can also be termed as a returning adult, non-traditional student or simply one who has gone back to school to complete a degree or earn another one (Jacoby, 2000).
The National Center for Education Statics defines an adult learner as the one who contains several characteristics. A detailed explanation of an adult learner is:
1. Someone who is a part-time student during most of the institution's academic calendar.
2. A person who delays in enrolling at a specified time but instead enrolls in a different academic year other than the year originally intended.
3. Someone who works on a full-time basis while on enrollment working more than 35 hours in a week.
4. Someone who is considered to have dependents such as children and spouse who rely on him or her financially.
5. A person who does not hold a high school diploma but instead has acquired other certifications of completion, such as a GED, or someone who did not complete his or her high school education.
According to Jacoby (2000), commuter students are those students who reside outside campus halls of residence.
Some students live in his or her parental home or in rental units from where they travel to school and back on a daily basis. They also include those who go to school while attending work.
The current trend of commuter students and/or adult learners is that over 20% of the whole adult population is involved in learning environments related to work; however, there is still a lack of clarity around which degrees lead to which careers (Deruy, 2015). There has been a surge in the growth of the adult learning paradigm. This is due to the need for literacy skills enhancement to bridge the gap needed to increase human productivity at work. SOURCE? More people have enrolled in adult learning centres to gain the requisite knowledge and skills needed for self-advancement. This is on the realization that the world has become more competitive where the educated thrive while the illiterate wallow in poverty and misery. SOURCE? Currently, approximately 56% of the working population requires some education beyond the high school level, and there are speculations that this portion of adults seeking education will increase in the future, with estimates indicating a higher adult enrollment and participation in higher education. It is also the case that goverments across the globe are setting in place initiatives to encourage more adult learning. SOURCE?
However, according to Deruy (2015), most college students work to pay for school. Sudents of today are taking out loans to make ends meet, as sometimes even being employed full time does not cover all of the tuition increasing even more the number of hours they work weekly. A quarter of college students are now both full-time workers and full-time students, with nearly 40 percent of undergraduate students and 76 percent of graduate students working at least 30 hours a week (Deruy, 2015). Gone are the days of students just being students, and they are unlikely to return. The number of students who have no option but work long hours to pay for school and satisfy other financial obligations is rising (Deruy, 2015).
Despite the upward trend in the numbers of commuter students and non- traditional students enrolling in learning institutions, several concerns have emerged (Jacoby, 2000). Most adult learners typically walk, use public means of transport, drive or ride to institutions of learning, leaving them with little to no time at all to spend outside the classroom environment. Some of the compelling reasons as to why they choose to commute even when they can acquire accommodation within the university's premises are that they have other duties and responsibilities such as financial dependence by their relatives and families; thus they do not have the choice to dwell within the university premises. SOURCE? Others cite the costly nature of living on campus and as such choose to save money by residing outside of the institution. Their commuting nature offers them difficult moments in fitting into the university curricular as they interact less with other on-campus students. SOURCE?
This lower interaction with other students can affect their educational experience. According to Alexander (2015), interaction among peers positively influences and affects development in critical thinking, academics, leadership qualities and cultural awareness. Thus, off-campus students often miss out on the opportunities associated with their wellbeing and this results in difficulties in learning and inclusion into the services offered by the institutions.
Vincent (2017) connotes that adult learners and commuter students are more likely to drop out of school compared to those who live in campus residence halls as they have less interaction with the university. This is due to limitations in time available to interact with others to form meaningful relationships (Vincent, 2017). As such, they are likely to be less committed to university programs as opposed to on-campus students. Working long hours also leads to poor grades, or worse, dropping out. (Deruy, 2015).
Most adult learners are employed in positions that drain most of their energy so that by the time attend classes, they are exhausted their concentration is at lower levels. SOURCE? The state of being torn between work and studies can also decrease the morale and drive required to perform exemplary in school. Most on-campus students successfully complete their studies and graduate with exemplary grades while only a few commuter student portions manage to attain the same. One can surmise that commuter students face more difficulties than on-campus students, which are portrayed by their difference in academic performance. SOURCE?
To justify their below-par performance, commuter students and adult learners have raised issues of concern which offer them difficulties while trying to access their studies over time. SOURCE? Some of the issues raised are: being sidelined in participation and involvement in making crucial decisions that affect their studies; unfriendly timetables such as early classes which do not favor commuting from long distances just to attend classes; the complex nature of some of their jobs which do not allow them to effectively attend classes; limited parking space on campus; institutions equating their needs with those of on-campus students; and lastly, the fact that there are limitations of on-campus housing, forcing some to incur hgher expenses by taking up residence off-campus, which may impact their ability to afford basic needs. Traffic jams also delay them from attending classes on time, something that institutions do not consider when laying out programs. SOURCE?
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