Staying Off Track: A defense of the non-traditional student’s priorities

Staying Off Track: A defense of the non-traditional student’s priorities
April 9, 2014 David Leslie

David Leslie, Senior Film and Journalism student at UAF.

David Leslie, Senior Film and Journalism student.

Over the past few years, the University of Alaska system has tried to address dismal graduation rates at UAF and other campuses (33.5% in six years) by mounting campaigns such as “Finish in Four” and “Stay on Track.”

UAF’s student body is extremely unique. There are veterans looking to use their education benefits, and a large number of non-traditional students. There are also students with families and children, or attending school while pregnant. I’ve seen classmates give birth in the middle of a semester, then return to class before finals.

As UAF spends resources to raise its graduation rate, the administration turns a blind eye to many of its non-traditional students who deal with real-life problems outside of school.

When you are 18 years old, living in the dorms, eating in the cafeteria and stuck on campus without a car, you have more time to focus on things like academics.

When you have to take your child to the hospital, are trying to deal with your PTSD, or have sewage spewing into the basement of your home, homework suddenly drops in priorities.


Stay On Track is great…if you don’t have have children, a health condition, or a house and mortgage.

To add insult to injury, the cost of living is rising in almost every aspect of students lives. Tuition rates are increasing, textbooks are costing more than ever, and utility bills, and therefore rents, are rising. If UAF were to decrease the costs to attend college during this economic recession, it would create less hardship on non-traditional students, who need to work to go to school.

I don’t work student jobs over the summer because I can’t make enough money to save for the school year. I go to school part time so I can teach dance regularly, and find other gigs on the side. I haven’t finished my degree in over seven years, but programs like “Stay on Track” focus attention on traditional students.

UAF needs to embrace its older, non-traditional students. We have children, families and responsibilities outside of class. UAF must find a way to work with this incredible asset, rather than ignoring our struggle to educate and better ourselves.

Film and Broadcast Journalism double major at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Also a dancer, choreographer, activist and Inupiaq Eskimo.


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