Today’s average college student looks far different than the typical caricature of a bright-faced 18-year-old setting foot on campus for the first time.
Does that surprise you? It’s a relatively recent phenomenon.
Today, 45 million Americans have some college experience but no degree. What’s more, the population of non-traditional college students is rapidly growing. One report from found that around 73% of students currently enrolled in college have at least one non-traditional characteristic: being independent for financial aid purposes, having one or more dependents, being a single caregiver, not having a traditional high school diploma, delaying postsecondary enrollment, attending school part time,
or being employed full time.
Enter the world of the hybrid college.
A hybrid approach to college combines online learning with face-to-face interaction with a coach and a physical study space to mix and collaborate with other students. It’s a method of post-secondary learning that’s become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. But even as life returns to a new normal, hybrid colleges are likely here to stay.
Trademarks of a hybrid college
There are several hallmarks of an effective hybrid program:
- A curriculum that’s tightly focused on credentials with real-world application in the job market.
- Many on-ramps throughout the year that allow students to leap into a degree program quickly and easily.
- Employs a combination of online and face-to-face instruction and coaching.
A hybrid example: PelotonU
A great example of a hybrid campus is PelotonU. Based in Austin, Texas, PelotonU takes a multi-faceted approach to helping individuals gain work experience and an accredited, marketable credential. PelotonU was founded in 2013 to create a seamless pipeline that matches students with accredited online learning options, job placements, a community-based local learning environment, and a coach to help them through the process.
The cost component is a big positive factor with PelotonU. Average tuition expenses are in the range of $6,000 per year compared to $11,039 for a public in-state school in Texas. On average, students complete their associate’s degree in 12 months and their bachelor’s degree in 36 months, with an overall graduation rate of 81 percent. Those who persist to complete their bachelor’s degree see an average earning increase of $19,107 per year.
But costs aren’t the only aspect that make PelotonU workable for working adults. New cohorts of students start every month, giving busy adults a nimble way to leap directly into a degree program rather than taking months to apply and start a course of study. Maintaining motivation is a significant factor for these non-traditional students as well, so the program pairs each learner with a coach for weekly meetings built around guidance and inspiration.
Another PelotonU offering that nudges students along are local study spaces where students are free to pursue their studies. PelotonU describes the spaces as more like a coffee shop than a classroom. Equally important is the fact that PelotonU links students with individual mentors, or coaches, who help keep them on the path to graduation.