Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


As the number of high school graduates decreases, Ferris State University (FSU) will increasingly compete with the other fourteen state universities, community colleges, and private schools for high school students. Therefore, in a effort to maintain current enrollment levels, Ferris will need to recruit actively nontraditional students (students aged twenty-five and older). The recognition of and adaptation to the changes in the Ferris student population are of utmost importance to the university if administrators and faculty are to assess successfully the effects of this population on the institution's academic programs and fiscal health. Prior to this study, no one at Ferris had analyzed the demographic and scholastic characteristic differences between the nontraditional student (twenty-five and older) and the more traditional student cohort (younger than age twenty-five). The purpose of this case study was to (1) identify the demographic differences between the nontraditional student and the traditional student student at Ferris: (2) identify, from a review of the literature, successful recruiting and retention activities for nontraditional students at other postsecondary educational institutions in the United States; (3) attempt to generalize the findings from the literature relative to the nontraditional student in the United States to the nontraditional student at Ferris State University with an emphasis on student recruitment and retention; and (4) develop an action plan impacting procedures and policies affecting the recruitment and retention of nontraditional students at Ferris State university. This study examined all of the students (11,818) enrolled in credit classes at Ferris State University on the fifth day of classes during the fall quarter of 1989. Information was collected on variables that included: age, gender, race or ethnic background, home location as determined by zip code, full-time or part-time enrollment, transfer credit, high school point average, ACT composite, and distribution in Ferris programs. After identification of these characteristics, the demographic differences between the nontraditional student and the traditional student were determined. Successful recruiting and retention activities for nontraditional students at American postsecondary institutions were identified from a review of the literature. In addition, a questionnaire was mailed to seven FSU personnel to determine their perceptions of an institution’s current recruiting and retention activities for nontraditional students. Lastly, Ferris State. University catalogs, brochures, and admissions letters were reviewed to determine if these materials were adequately designed to meet the needs of the nontraditional student. This study concluded: (1) future researchers should strive toward greater consistency when defining student population aged twenty-five and older; (2) due to the nature of Ferris State University and its physical location, recruitment and retention activities used at other postsecondary institutions should be evaluated carefully for appropriateness before being adopted at Ferris; (3) Ferris State University currently lags behind national trends in the percentage of nontraditional students served at the institution; (4) information is the key to every aspect of a student's academic endeavor; (5) looking at the demographic profiles of all students, of nontraditional students, or of traditional students is insufficient without taking into account the context of the institution or the program; (6) respondents to the questionnaire indicated an awareness of the issues involved with the recruitment and retention of nontraditional students; (7) the reading level found in FSU school bulletins, informational program brochures, and admissions letters was too high for students entering FSU and these documents rarely depicted adult learners in photos; (8) a large number of local adults needs to be convinced that there is much to be gained through education; and (9) there is a need for FSU academic and administrative staff to study, discuss, and implement the recommendations made in this document. This study recommended that: (1) inservice training on the characteristics, motivations, learning styles, and needs of nontraditional students be given to FSU administration, faculty, and staff; (2) deans' offices be provided with student demographic data on disk; (3) technology be used to the fullest extent possible to improve instructional delivery and to streamline administrative procedures; (4) marketing strategies geared toward the adult learner be developed; (5) institutional barriers be removed by offering services during evening and weekend hours; (6) the nontraditional student be considered when developing strategic plans for the institution; (7) FSU implement the recommendations presented in this document as quickly as possible to meet the recruitment and retention needs of nontraditional students at Ferris State University; and (8) periodic evaluation of recruitment and retention efforts be made to identify the strengths and weaknesses of current activities. A five-page action plan summarizing the study and its findings was presented to the vice president of academic affairs for consideration.

Files over 10MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "Save as..."

To access this thesis/dissertation you must have a valid OR email address and create an account for NSUWorks.

Free My Thesis

If you are the author of this work and would like to grant permission to make it openly accessible to all, please click the Free My Thesis button.

Included in

Education Commons