Meeting the needs of nontraditional college students? Student perspectives on proprietary school practices Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cf95jf345

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  • The purpose of this study was to understand, through nontraditional student perspectives, how institutional practices of postsecondary proprietary schools may influence the success of moderately to highly nontraditional students. The study was undertaken for these reasons: (a) A large and growing number of higher education students are nontraditional, putting them at higher risk of not reaching their educational goals; (b) proprietary schools represent a growing segment of higher education that is experiencing documented success with student outcomes; and (c) given increasing accountability expectations, community colleges may be able to learn from proprietary school successes. The research design used an interpretive social science philosophical approach and the method of hermeneutic phenomenology. Six students from one proprietary school were interviewed in order to understand: (a) what meanings they ascribed to the term, "college success," (b) what school practices they found to be most relevant to that success, and (c) how they felt these practices contributed to their success. Data emerging from the interviews were analyzed to show how participants' nontraditional characteristics informed their meanings of college success and how the proprietary school practices were related by participants to those meanings. Career Tech practices that were reported to contribute to participant success were career services and admissions, knowledgeable and helpful instructors, and informational meetings. The analysis of participant descriptions pointed to a complex, evolving student population who view college as a personal process and require the connectivity and continuity that a relationship with the institution can provide. The following are among the seven insights drawn from the study: [1] Participants held personal, as well as practical, meanings of college success. [2] Having a knowledgeable instructor who applied explicit teaching methods was important to participants. [3] Practices considered most relevant to participants were highly integrated into the college routine. Given these insights and related research, the study offered implications for community college practitioners tasked with facilitating the success of nontraditional students, including the need to look beyond statistics to take students' characteristics and meanings of college success into account when setting practice. Doing so may not only address what is important to students, but may positively impact traditionally measured outputs such as retention and graduation.
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