The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

‘Nontrads’ settle into university

The OASIS might be mistaken for any other student lounge. Students study there, they relax there, they eat their lunches there. So students may not think it’s anything different, except for the sign on the door that states it is reserved for nontraditional students.

“It’s a place where we can come and just talk s***,” 27-year-old freshman Joshua Bohl said. “I’m not going to be hanging out with 18- and 19-year-olds. I can come here and talk about what’s going on in my life, with my classes, and people can actually relate to it.”

After high school, he moved to the Twin Cities to work in residential and commercial construction, which he said was fine until the economic collapse in 2008. Now, as a business major, Bohl plans to open his own bar and restaurant or construction company once he graduates.

Bohl said he thinks his experience has been similar to that of a traditional student. He still takes classes, still does homework, still has to deal with group projects. But just the fact that he is so far removed from high school, there are bound to be some differences.

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“I’ve got a house to take care of, I live in Chippewa Falls so I have a half hour drive there and back, I’m holding down two jobs,” Bohl said. “It isn’t necessarily that I have more responsibilities, I just have different responsibilities.”

According to Nontraditional Student Services, a nontraditional student is defined as having one of the following characteristics: married and/or a parent, a military veteran, has had a significant break in their education since high school or secondary school.

Bonnie Isaacson, the NSS adviser, said nontrads make up about 10 percent of UW-Eau Claire’s student population. She added that nontraditional students often return to school for employment reasons, especially in this economic climate.

“They’re often turning to education because of a job loss or injury,” she said.

Bob and Vickie Bell, a married couple from Chippewa Falls, certainly fit that bill. They began taking classes at Eau Claire a couple years ago, and this is their first time in a post-secondary educational setting.

Bob Bell, a history and American Indian studies double major, said their son encouraged them to get their bachelor’s degrees when he lost his job.

“My job disappeared,” Bob Bell said. “They called it a ‘work force reduction,’ so I couldn’t appeal or do anything about it.”

While he is able to focus on his classes, and will be graduating in just three years, Vickie Bell has two jobs on top of working toward her accounting degree.  She drives a school bus each weekday morning and afternoon and works for another busing service during the weekends.

“It has been difficult trying to fit classes around my work schedule,” she said. “But you just can’t get anywhere without a degree anymore.”

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‘Nontrads’ settle into university