ALVS helps non-traditional students navigate college

Ravyn Cullor

While many students starting this fall are transitioning from high school to college, many others have followed a different path to higher education. 

These students are known as non-traditional students. Lisa Chandler, assistant director of the Adult Learner and Veteran Services office, says non-traditional students can include students over 23, student-parents and any other student who feels they do not fit with the traditional-age student population.  


“We are extremely excited to get another fall semester underway,” ALVS Director Marc Barker wrote in an email to The Collegian. “Our goal is that adult learners will find a community in ALVS that is designed to specifically meet their needs.” 

Chandler said many of the students they serve don’t necessarily need a different set of resources than traditional-age students, but often just don’t know how to access and use what is available. 

“A lot of our (non-traditional) students might not know the system of college; they’re often first-generation students,” Chandler said. “A lot of students talk themselves out of things before even finding out if there’s a way they could be tailor-made for them.” 

The main resource non-traditional students need help accessing is financial assistance, Chandler said. For students coming from non-traditional paths, access to FAFSA and scholarships can be hindered by misunderstandings and misconceptions, she said.

It’s important (non-traditional students) know that there’s a lot of students out there that fit in this population and that there’s a lot of support.” Lisa Chandler, Assistant Director, ALVS

On top of these challenges, many non-traditional students have families or jobs and often lose access to other resources because they aren’t built for their schedules.

“Our students are trying to be the most effective and efficient with the time they have on campus,” Chandler said. “Sometimes opportunities and activities are not quite as conducive to non-traditional students.”

The ALVS is designed not to provide resources, Chandler said, but to help non-traditional students navigate the existing resources and build a community of students with similar experiences. 

The office does provide a number of resources tailored for non-traditional students’ needs, including a short-term childcare center in the Morgan Library called Ram Kidz and a tutoring program that fits better with their schedules. 

The ALVS also brings in a caseworker from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs once a week to help student-veterans access VA resources.

A peer adviser program through the office also helps connect non-traditional students with students who have “walked-the-walk.” Chandler said while the administration of the office can offer advice to students, the specific insights on student life provided by a peer who has been down the same path has a lot of value. 


Chandler said the most important things the ALVS does for non-traditional students are encouraging them to engage on campus and building a community to help them surmount “roadblocks the students might have put up thinking that a service isn’t for them.”

“A lot of our non-traditional students might think that they are the only one because they’re in a class and they don’t see a lot of other students like them,” Chandler said. “It’s important they know that there’s a lot of students out there that fit in this population and that there’s a lot of support.”

Ravyn Cullor can be reached at or on Twitter @RCullor99.