Exploring the Non-Traditional Student Experience at Community College: A Case Study

This study examines the experiences of a group of non-traditional students who were attending a community college located in an urban community within Southern California. A case study was determined to be the best way to collect qualitative data in its thick rich descriptions, as each participant had the opportunity to provide thoughtful feedback on their educational experiences. Using questions inspired by Tinto’s theory of integration, the data collected revealed some consistent themes through the lens of non-traditional students. These themes included the limited availability of student services (such as counseling and student organization events) in the evening, the absence of strong communication to inform and include evening and part time students about campus activities, and the lack of accessibility to academic and support facilities (such as the library) on campus at night. Participants conveyed a sense of exclusion, frustration, and labeled themselves as passenger students when experiencing challenges with accessing support services and campus life participation.