Non-Academic Factors that Predict Persistence of Non-Traditional Students Attending Community College in the Commonwealth of Virginia

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Virginia Tech

Community colleges across the country have continued to expand since the inception of Joliet
Junior College in 1901. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC, 2010) reported that there are 1,173 community colleges in America, of which 987 are public institutions of higher learning. Additional statistics indicate that there are almost twelve million students enrolled in the community college system (AACC, 2010). Over the years many changes have occurred that affect who attends community college, no change more
significant than the focus on meeting the needs of a diverse population. Many unique characteristics, such as being of minority status, being financially disadvantaged, and being a first- generation American make up this diverse new student population. Another unique characteristic of the new student population is being of non-traditional age, which is defined as 25 years old or older (Bean & Metzner, 1985; Cohen & Brawer, 1989; Crosta, Calcagno, Jenkins, & Bailey 2006). Little empirical research has been conducted examining this new population of non-traditional students' ability to complete their goals when selecting to attend community college, especially in the state of Virginia (Sorey, 2006). Through quantitative methodology, utilizing a cross-sectional design, the purpose of this study was to identify non-academic social and emotional factors that are related to the ability of nontraditional
students to persist towards their academic goals within the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). This study included a sample of 1694 students. Their responses to an
electronic survey questionnaire of non-traditional students within the VCCS were analyzed to provide descriptive data, correlations, and mean differences. The findings indicate that
participants in this study are dealing with multiple non-academic social and emotional factors
that may require readjustment in their lives. Further participants in this study perceived
themselves as being stressed. Finally, 12.9% of participants endorsed a moderate level of
psychological distress and 4.2% of participants endorsed a serious level of psychological distress. The positive correlation between perceived stress and psychological distress supports the need of additional resources, for non-traditional students at the community college level within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Non-traditional students, Persistence, Community College