The 10 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students

The 10 Best Colleges for Non-Traditional Students
Athina Hansen

Athina Hansen

Content Writer at Gradehacker

Although most people believe most college students are those 20-year-olds who prioritize socializing over studying, this is not the case!

In fact, in the U.S., nearly 74 percent of American undergraduate students are considered “non-traditional.” Meaning that non-traditional students greatly outnumber their traditional counterparts!

Non-traditional students are those who do not fit this classic perception of a college student. And many unique characteristics can set you apart from the traditional student.

Maybe you decided to serve in the military before attending college. Perhaps, you work full-time. Or, maybe you have a family of your own. The point is non-traditional students come in all shapes and sizes!

As the majority of colleges are tailored for the traditional college student, the non-traditional student can face added barriers when obtaining an education.

A major barrier non-traditional students face is often time-flexibility, as they have other responsibilities that take up their time. This is why it is vital to choose a college that suits these learning needs!

Here at Gradehacker, we work side by side with non-traditional students on the daily. We help them with coursework, classes, or even exams. From our years of experience, we understand how non-traditional students need a college that adapts to their time-schedule and unique background.

This article will be listing ten colleges that empower non-traditional students instead of ignoring them.

After extensive research and analysis of online college resources and respective individual college websites, this is the list of schools we consider the best based on the learning approaches offered, the modality of programs, and the student body’s diversity.

The list is in descending order, and the colleges at the top of the list rank better

If you want, you can also look at our video where we give you this awesome list!

Tuition: Use  Walden University’s Find Your Program tool to find your desired program’s tuition cost.

Popular Programs of Study: Nursing, Business, and Psychology.

Top of the list we have…Walden University! Walden University is a college that focuses on providing education to the non-traditional student.

In fact, since Walden University’s creation, it aimed to empower the non-traditional student. In 1970, Walden University was created by two educators who saw how distance learning could help adult learners pursue degrees.

Walden University has a variety of programs you can choose from. Check out the Walden bachelor’s Walden master’s Walden doctoral, or  Walden certificate programs available.

What will benefit you as a non-traditional student is that Walden University provides working professionals the time-flexibility to earn a career. Depending on your unique time availability and learning style, you can choose from two methods of learning offered!

One is the  Course-based Learning, which employs an instructor-led approach with a predetermined schedule.

The other is the  Tempo Competency-Based Learning, where you work at your own pace and progress when you’ve demonstrated understanding in a subject. This approach allows you to personalize the length and pacing of your program.

Why we recommend it: Walden University is specifically committed to non-traditional students. With the Course-Based Learning or Tempo Competency-Based learning, you can choose the learning style that will favor you and your schedule.

Tuition: Use  Purdue University Global’s tuition calculator.

Popular Programs of Study: Business, Psychology, and Nursing.

Next, we have Purdue University! Purdue University Global is another institution that actively focuses on adult students.

Purdue University Global understands how the working adult learns differently from traditional students. For this reason, they focus on delivering personalized online education that meets the needs of its working students.

Purdue University Global offers over 175 programs! The best part is that they offer a  3-week undergraduate program trial, where you can see if online learning suits you.

When enrolling, their advisors will work hand in hand with you to determine your learning needs. They will also evaluate any academic, professional, or military experience to give you credit for what you already know.

Purdue University Global offers two learning options. These include traditional online learning as well as competency-based ExcelTrack degrees.

If you choose the ExcelTrack option, you will build on the knowledge that you have already mastered through professional experience. The single-credit courses offered in this option are extremely focused, teaching you a specific new skill or piece of knowledge.

The best part of the ExcelTrack option is that you can take as many classes as you want in a term for one flat price!

Why we recommend it: Purdue Global’s education is made for working adults and is extremely personalized. With the excel track option, you can expand on the knowledge you have from your professional experience and take multiple classes in a term for one flat price.


Bachelor’s tuition: $6,670 per year

Master’s tuition: $7,405 per year

Popular Programs of Study: Nursing.

Western Governors University is another institution that solely offers online education to its students. At Western Governors University, you can pursue online bachelor’s or master’s degrees!

This university consists of four colleges: college of business, teachers college, college of information technology, and college of health professions.

Western Governors University is great for non-traditional students because it offers lots of time-freedom. How so? Well, Western Governors University offers WGU competency-based degrees.

You might be wondering, what is that? Well, instead of the typical college where you have no say in how quickly (or slowly) you advance through your degree, at Western Governors University, your skills are assessed as you go, and there is no set time you have to learn them.

Still a little lost? Basically, this means that you advance through your classes when you have mastered the material instead of only when the semester or term ends.

With this approach, you spend more time learning material that’s new to you and breeze through subjects you know well!

Clearly, the flexibility that WGU offers is notable, and for this reason, 73% of WGU students work while earning their degrees!

Also,  WGU has community college transfers throughout the U.S. So, if you are currently a community college student looking to transfer to another university, this might be an excellent fit for you!

Why we recommend it: The best part of Western Governors University is their competency-based degrees, where you are the boss of your time! Meaning you can focus on areas you struggle in and skip past what you are familiar with.

Tuition: Standard Bachelor’s Degree= $12,450 per year.

Popular Programs of Study: Computer Science, Human Resource Management.

Trident University is a college that entirely focuses on online education. They offer  TUI professional certificates,  TUI associate degrees TUI bachelor degrees,  TUI master degrees, and  TUI doctoral degrees. Their programs focus on current & relevant real-world curriculum!

Trident University offers a comprehensive learning approach called  EdActive Learning. You’re probably wondering what the heck is that! This approach focuses on preparing students for the workplace by promoting their ability to think, learn, and solve problems.

With EdActive Learning, you can say goodbye to your education revolving around memorizing textbooks.

In this learning approach, students are presented with an issue or question; they do the research, apply their own experience, and then present a solution. After presenting a solution, students will receive feedback and apply those to the next phase. This promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills!

Trident University also values accessibility, as it keeps tuition costs as low as possible.

Why we recommend it: Trident Univesity’s programs are all entirely online. With EdActive Learning, you are directly prepared for the workplace.

Tuition: Associate and Bachelor’s Degree range from $69 to $85 per credit.

Popular Programs of Study: Business Management, Human Resources, Accounting.

Penn Foster is an online college where students can choose from P.F. associate and bachelor’s degrees! Penn Foster values providing affordable and accessible education to its students.

Penn Foster offers over 100 accredited degree, diploma, and certificate programs. They also have valuable student resources, such as career coaching, mentoring programs, and flexible payment options.

This college offers both online and blended learning programs. The programs offered are self-paced and extremely personalized, allowing you to fit your education into your unique schedule!

The great thing about Penn Foster is that there are no study schedules! You progress with your courses on your own time at a pace that suits you.

And, if you consider yourself disorganized, don’t worry! They provide goal-setting and progress-tracking tools to help you stay on track.

Are you eager to begin your degree? Well, Penn Foster has an open enrollment policy. This means you can enroll anytime, anywhere, and begin your lessons directly after your enrollment has been processed.

Why we recommend it: Its low cost is hard to beat. At Penn Foster, you can choose from online or blended learning programs, which give you a lot of time flexibility as they are self-paced and personalized. Their open enrollment is unique and allows students to start without having to wait for the beginning of semester terms.

Location: Miami, Florida


Florida Resident: $23,376 per year. 

Non-Florida Resident: $35,774 per year.

Popular Programs of Study: Business Management, Marketing, Communications.

Florida International University is an awesome college for non-traditional students. To begin with, around 22% of Florida International University’s undergraduate students are 25 or over. So, don’t worry about being one of the only non-traditional students there!

Many non-traditional students have already pursued a career but are looking for a career change. Florida International University has many students who are not first-time degree seeking undergraduate students.

What if you’re looking to transfer? Well, you’re in luck and can use  FIU’s Transfer Guide. One in three Florida International University students are transfer students. They accept both college and military transfer credits!

You might be thinking, yes, everything looks great, but I’m looking for an online program. Actually, this college is a great choice for non-traditional students because  FlU offers over 130 degrees and programs in the online modality.

So, don’t worry about this university not allowing you the time flexibility you need!

This college is among the top 10 largest universities in the nation and is a hubspot for students from diverse backgrounds.

Why we recommend it: Florida International University hosts a diverse student body and a significant non-traditional student population. They accept both college and military transfer credits and have several online degrees to choose from.

Location: Miami, Florida


Resident Students: Cost per Term (12 credits)= $1,558.68

Non-resident Students: Cost per Term (12 credits)= $6,431.64

Popular Programs of Study: Nursing, Hospitality.

Miami Dade College has eight campuses, flexible scheduling options, and weekend classes. This can be beneficial for non-traditional students as it gives them a lot of leeway in deciding where and when they will complete their program.

This institution offers  MDC bachelors,  MDC associates, and  MDC college credit certificates. Also, they pride themselves on offering accessible and high-quality education!

Okay, but what if you can’t fit on-campus programs into your schedule? Before you get discouraged, Miami Dade College also offers degree programs entirely online!

Are you curious about what bachelor’s degrees they offer in the online modality? Well, they offer bachelor’s degrees in areas such as nursing and public safety management.

This online option is great because you can create your own convenient schedule and have the advantage of accessing classes at any time.

Were you looking for accelerated options? Miami Dade College offers an accelerated learning option where you can get your associate’s degree in just one year!

This college is a great starting point. It has formal agreements with over 60 colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad that you can transfer to!

Why we recommend it: MDC’s online programs offer a lot of time-flexibility, as you can access classes at any time. Also, if you plan on transferring in the future, MDC has connections to many colleges both in the U.S. and abroad.

Location: Gainesville, Florida

Tuition: UF Online= $8,356

Popular Programs of Study: Engineering, Business, Marketing.

University of Florida is a public college that offers excellent education to its students.

Don’t take my word for it? They ranked second on  the Forbes list of “Best Value Public Colleges” and Kiplinger’s “Best Values in Public Colleges.”

The University of Florida is composed of different colleges such as Agricultural and Life Sciences, Arts, Dentistry, etc.!

No matter which level of education you’re looking to pursue, you have ample to choose from! U.F. offers 30 certificates, 100 undergraduate majors, and 200 graduate programs.

Okay, but what is the catch? Why is this university great for non-traditional students?

Well, the University of Florida not only offers on-campus programs. U.F. also offers more than 200 online degree and certificate programs!

Why we recommend it: With the University of Florida’s online programs, you can get the same prestigious education but in a modality that will fit into your time schedule.

 Location: Hays, Kansas


Undergraduate: $226.88 per credit hour

Graduate: $298.55 per credit hour

MBA: $350.00 per credit hour

DNP: $400.00 per credit hour

Popular Programs of Study: Business, Marketing, and Liberal Arts.

Fort Hays State University is a public university that provides higher education that is highly accessible.

At Fort Hays State University, you can choose from hundreds of FHSU degree, certificate, and course options, which are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

It is important to note that the average student to faculty ratio is 17:1. This ratio is considered good and will ensure that you don’t feel lost in a sea of students!

This college not only offers on-campus classes. They have a comprehensive online modality called  FHSU online.

With  FHSU online, you have over 200 online degree and certificate programs to choose from!

Are you serving in the military but have your sights set on pursuing a career? Well, what’s great is that through FHSU’S online option, military students can continue their education no matter where they’re stationed!

Or, are you looking to transfer? Well, Fort Hayes State University also receives transfer students! Check out how you can  use transfer credits at FHSU.

Why we recommend it: FHSU has a low student to faculty ratio, so your education will feel extremely personal. They accept transfer students, and if you are part of the military, you can still pursue your education with them.

Location: San Jose, California


Undergraduate= $3,926 per year.

Graduate= $4,643 per year.

*Non-California Resident tuition includes an additional $396 per unit.

Popular Programs of Study: Business, Psychology, Marketing.

San Jose State University offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study. This means you have an ample selection to choose from!

Are you worried about feeling like one of the only non-traditional students? Here at San Jose State University, you won’t have that problem!

In fact, this college has around 36,000 students, and 31% of the school is older than 24!

Okay, but what types of programs does San Jose State University offer? There are three modalities that this college offers! SJSU has fully online, hybrid, and in-person classes.

If you are set on pursuing an online education, be sure to check out SJSU’s fully online programs that they offer!

Why we recommend it: San Jose State University has a significant non-traditional student population. You can also pursue your education with them at an affordable price and have many online areas of study to choose from.

Which College Will Best Suit My Non-traditional Student Learning Needs?

As a non-traditional student, you have additional things to look out for when the time comes to choose a college.

Such as, will I be able to balance this college’s program with my full-time job? Do they offer an online program? Can I use my transfer credits for this college?

No matter what your learning needs are, there are colleges out there for you! Now you know about ten colleges where being a non-traditional student will not limit you.

Okay, but now you’re probably thinking, what do I do with this long list of colleges?

Now it’s your turn to skim through and find the college that actually has what you’re looking for. You should consider different factors, such as tuition cost, what learning formats are offered, etc.

We hope that this information will help you decide which college is right for you. Hopefully, after reading this article, you are aware that there are many colleges out there that provide an environment where you will feel included as a non-traditional student.

Want to learn more about what being a non-traditional student involves? Check out our article on  What is a Non-Traditional College Student?.

Are you wondering if online classes are easier than in-person classes? Check out our article on  Are Online Classes Easier than In-Person Classes?

Do you struggle with time management? Read our article on 9 Hacks To Better Manage Your Time.

Athina Hansen

Athina Hansen

Athina has worked with Gradehacker both as a content writer and a study consultant, where she assisted college students with nursing courses. Athina has a background of educating others and producing content, having tutored college students and produced articles for her school magazine. She brings her experience to her current role, where she writes content to empower and assist the non-traditional college student who is often overlooked. You can find her on LinkedIn