With the growth in older students attending the University, there has been an escalating demand to accommodate their needs. Efforts are underway to create a support group for these students, tentatively titled “The Returning Student’s Union.”

The growth in older students can be attributed to the fact that college students are taking longer to finish their educations. According to a study in a recent New York Times article, the average student requires five to six years of undergraduate courses in order to complete a bachelor’s degree – a feat that formerly took a standard four years to accomplish.

Sam Martinez, a 32-year-old LSA sophomore, said although the University is typically comprised of students between the ages of 18 and 22, it also educates many students over that age.

Many of these students have difficulty adjusting to life at college, where most of their fellow students are much younger than they are.

LSA Academic Advisor Antoinette Morales said she has found that most older students – those who are at least three years older than the average 18 to 22 year old student – have outside commitments such as jobs and families.

Martinez said when he came to the University in the winter of 2003, “it was tremendously challenging for me. I am a full-time employee of a major corporation, I operate (a computer business), I’m the single father of three, and I attend college full-time.”

Martinez said he felt a gap between himself and his fellow students, most of whom were fresh out of high school, while he himself had “real world experiences and problems.” He said he thought few students would be able to relate to him.

Morales said she recalls an advising meeting with one of her older students, who was “bemoaning the fact that she felt alienated… There weren’t a whole lot of people her age (in her classes at the University).”

Afterwards, Morales had the idea to start a group to help older students network with each other. She sent out a mass e-mail to approximately 220 older LSA students. Martinez enthusiastically agreed to lead the group.

The purpose of the group would be to assist older students in meeting one another and to dissipate the difficulties of coming to such an expansive university, Martinez said.

Martinez added after receiving a warm response to the idea, students have had several meetings in which they started to create their vision for the organization.

While most group activity is postponed until the fall, Martinez said “several of us have chosen to go ahead and hold meetings, throughout this summer and invite those that are able to join,” Martinez said.

The organization is currently planning for a group cookout sometime in June, where they hope to “define (their) intentions.

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