Community College Access and Affordability for Occupational and Non-Traditional Student

Publication June 2009

The purpose of this study was to examine what types of initiatives exist to increase access to and affordability of postsecondary education, especially in community college programs that lead to occupational advancement. We reviewed community college agency and state legislative Web sites to discover what initiatives or policies are currently being implemented or considered in the 50 states. We found few state-level initiatives designed specifically for occupational students, so we broadened our target population to include nontraditional students, whom we defined as financially independent working adults (over 25) who commute to a community college part time. We found that common ways of attempting to increase access for nontraditional students were (1) evening and weekend course schedules, (2) distance learning, and (3) awareness campaigns about college and the availability of financial aid. In terms of affordability, we found that states were expanding existing financial aid programs as well as creating new ones that target nontraditional students. States were also targeting specific occupational fields for aid in order to develop the workforce needed in that state. Future research in this area should study the effectiveness of these initiatives and policies in order to determine which initiatives have had the greatest impact on increasing access to and affordability of community colleges for occupational and nontraditional students.

Castellano, M., & Overman, L. T. (2009, June). Community college access and affordability for occupational and non-traditional students. Louisville, KY: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Louisville.

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