Long gone are the days when the vast majority of college students were 18- to 22-year-old singles. Today, students may be middle-aged, have children or need to squeeze in studies after their full-time job.
Fortunately, as the average student body has diversified, so have colleges in terms of their curricula. Many higher education institutions no longer require individuals to pursue a degree on a full-time basis or even attend classes on campus. The most flexible colleges and universities provide a variety of learning opportunities and support services, examples of which are listed below:
- Distance learning and online degree programs
- Weekend and evening classes
- ROTC programs
- Study abroad opportunities
- Remedial services
- Career counseling and job placement services
- On-site daycares
To identify these institutions, OnlineColleges.com sifted through data from more than 7,700 school locations and discovered that the following are the top colleges for students seeking flexibility, including parents, nontraditional students and career changers. Use our Top Online Colleges tool to explore your options.
1. University of South Florida
USF's faculty of more than 2,000 scholars, researchers and expert teachers instruct students in over 240 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and professional levels. Despite its lofty designation, USF is accessible to students from all walks of life. It offers remedial classes, a daycare and online courses, as well as career services for graduates. USF has also been honored for its community service. In 2013, USF joined the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
2. Indiana University, South Bend
At Indiana University-South Bend, nontraditional students aren't an unusual sight. More than a third of enrolled students are older than age 25, and nearly that many are studying on a part-time basis. IU offers more than 100 undergraduate degree programs as well as master's degrees in more than 15 fields. Students can study online or on the weekend, and the university offers career services to students and alumni.
3. Iowa State University
ISU has come a long way from its roots as an agricultural college and model farm founded in 1858. Today, students come to the Ames campus to study more than 100 majors. The university's eight colleges encompass everything from design to veterinary medicine to graduate studies. Students seeking a nontraditional class schedule can also take advantage of the university's distance learning programs. ISU also offers daycare for student parents and employment services for each college.
4. Northeastern University
Northeastern University anchors its education on experiential learning. This means students at this college in Boston participate in cooperative education that can send them abroad for up to six months at a time for professional experience prior to graduation. While that type of overseas commitment may not seem to make Northeastern one of the top colleges for parents, students can also complete their co-op experience closer to home. The school offers daycare and online courses as part of its effort to accommodate busy schedules.
5. Eastern Michigan University
Since its founding in 1849, EMU has grown from Michigan State Normal School to a college to the university it is today. Students from across the nation and globe travel to its Ypsilanti campus to study in one of more than 200 majors, minors and concentrations. EMU offers degrees at the bachelor's, master's, doctoral and professional levels in addition to several certificate programs. To help students succeed, the university provides distance learning and continuing education opportunities and maintains the Holman Success Center.
6. Concordia University, St. Paul
As a Christian institution, Concordia University is affiliated with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Founded in 1893 to provide preparation to those planning to work in ministry, the university now includes three colleges: arts and letters, education and science, and business and organizational leadership. It also offers specialized undergraduate degree programs for adults. Students can study online or on campus, study abroad, and/or take advantage of the school's daycare and employment services.
7. University of Minnesota
With its flagship campus in the Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota educates nearly 65,000 students each year in baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degree programs. Its career services office is available to work with students at each level of their education, from choosing a major to finding a job. As one of the nation's most flexible colleges, Minnesota also offers online classes and opportunities to study abroad in one of more than 250 student exchange programs.
8. University of New Mexico
Offering over 215 certificate and degree programs, UNM is another top college for flexibility. The school has 12,000 nontraditional students attending night classes, and almost 40 degree programs are available through the Evening and Weekend Degree Program. This program allows students to select from approximately 1,000 courses each semester that are held after 4 p.m. or during weekends. The university also has several research units, including the Mind Research Network, the Center for Advanced Research Computing, and the Design Planning Assistance Center.
9. University of Oklahoma
Boasting 19 colleges on its Norman campus, The University of Oklahoma prides itself on offering not only traditional degree programs but also plenty of online options. "The flexibility offered by the University of Oklahoma's College of Liberal Studies enables online adult students to succeed despite work and family responsibilities," notes James Pappas, Vice President for Outreach and Dean of the College of Liberal Studies. "Our online degrees are pioneering programs in our state and region."
Between its online and on-campus degree programs, students can choose from approximately 150 majors. In addition, OU has a very comprehensive study abroad program. When selecting a study-abroad destination, students can choose from over 100 cities located in 50 countries. It's no wonder OU describes itself as a national leader when it comes to its number of exchange agreements.
10. Duquesne University
Rounding out our list of the 10 most flexible colleges is Duquesne University, based in Pittsburg. The school was founded more than 130 years ago by the Catholic religious order Congregation of the Holy Ghost. Duquesne has regularly received kudos for its nontraditional education programs. For example, U.S. News and World Report ranked its online nursing program as the third-best for veterans and its part-time MBA program as one of the best in the nation. Meanwhile, Victory Media designated the university as a 2014 Military-Friendly School.
Top Flexible Colleges Wrap-Up
The most flexible colleges share a common goal: to make education accessible to individuals from all walks of life. Regardless of whether a student needs extra help to get started or flexible class times to complete their chosen program, these ten schools are excellent choices for traditional and nontraditional students alike.
1. About Iowa State, Iowa State University,
2. About the U, University of Minnesota,
3. About USF - Overview, University of South Florida,
4. A Brief History, Duquesne University,
5. Academics, The University of Oklahoma,
6. Career Services at Iowa State University, Iowa State University,
7. Career Services Office, Indiana University South Bend,
8. Career Services, University of Minnesota,
9. Career Services, University of South Florida,
10. Concordia University Online, St. Paul, Concordia University-Saint Paul,
11. EMU Institutional Profile, Eastern Michigan University,
12. Experiential Learning, Northeastern University,
13. Facts and Rankings, Duquesne University,
14. History of Concordia University, St. Paul, Concordia University, Saint Paul,
15. Interview with John Pappas, Vice President of Outreach and Dean of The University of Oklahoma's College of Liberal Studies, OnlineColleges.com
16. IU South Bend Fast Facts, Indiana University South Bend,
17. OU Facts, The University of Oklahoma,
18. Study Abroad, The University of Oklahoma,
19. The Programs, The University of New Mexico,