The first semester of college is a huge transition. Students must pick a major, pass classes and figure out what to do with the rest of their lives.
Now imagine you are a 27-year-old trying to do the same thing.
The Adult Learner and Veteran Services (ALVS) office was started in July 2009 and serves students above the age of 23. If they meet this requirement, they are considered a non-traditional student.
“In 2011, there were 4,000 students that our office served,” said Jenny Picket, interim director of the ALVS office, “and that number continues to go up each year.”
Often these students come from a military background or got married right out of high school. Some start professional jobs, then decide to come get their degree at CSU. It all depends on the person and their individual situation.
Donna Baker, 39, is one of those students. She is a senior at CSU majoring in social work and balances raising four kids, 15 credits and an internship with Homeless Gear.
“It’s a lot to juggle, but it’s manageable,” Baker said. “Time management and finances are a big struggle.”
The ALVS office initially helped her transfer from Front Range Community College to CSU. They helped her figure out her financial situation as well.
“I have a unique situation, where I’m lucky enough to get enough scholarships that I don’t have to work during the semester,” Baker said.
She doesn’t qualify for the Pell Grant anymore, which has made her situation more difficult.
On top of the financial burden, Baker is often the oldest person in her classes. She hasn’t been in school for a long time, so it has taken some extra effort to reintegrate into the college life.
“These are people who haven’t been in school before with a graphing calculator,” Picket said.
This is where the ALVS office comes in. They offer a variety of services to help students adjust and to build a community around the adult learners. On a daily basis, they offer math tutoring and offer a specific CO150 (college composition) class for veterans only.
Jacob Nosal, 24, is a math tutor in the ALVS office. As a veteran of the Marine Corps, he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. After returning from duty, he and his wife decided to attend CSU.
“CSU is known as one of the top vet friendly schools in the nation,” Nosal said.
Nosal also works at the ALVS office as the program review coordinator. He recently wrote a 60-page report on the ALVS office to measure how effective the office is spending student fee dollars.
“At the ALVS office, there is this understanding that you’re at school to be academically successful, but you also need to be personally successful,” Nosal said.
He often tutors students as part of the math on track program, which tracks student’s grades and suggests how to improve in each math class. He also participates in the Veteran Success Group, which leads students on weekend outings. Recently, they all hiked Grey Rock.
“We formed a sense of community and bonded over our experiences,” Nosal said.
The ALVS office has a strong sense of community, but that is harder to come by in the classroom.
“We feel a little marginalized because we are the ones asking lots of questions in class,” Baker said.
On top of that, it can be a little intimidating to be the oldest person in the classroom.
“The younger students aren’t intimidating, it’s the fact that there are 26,000 of them,” Nosal said.
Despite this, there is a high retention rate for ALVS students. They are often so focused on their academic studies that they graduate on time and do so with high GPA’s.
“ALVS students bring a lot to the classroom because they offer different perspectives and are extremely focused on school,” Picket said.
Student Life Beat Reporter Amanda Zetah can be reached at email@example.com.