One of the things I admire most about my mom is that she never gave up on getting a college education. She raised three of us through the '80s and '90s, a young stay-at-home mother, and in the chaos of tee-ball practice, band competitions, trying to keep the house tidy, and later a full-time job, she went more than a decade before she even had the opportunity to enroll in a school. It was then another decade of night classes, independent studies, and long weekly commutes for her to earn her degree. When she walked across the stage at her Bachelor's degree commencement, I felt more pride than I would later feel at my own graduation.
The life of a nontraditional student has always been difficult. It's hard enough finding a job these days, let alone going back to school to pursue your passion or increase your employability. Heck, traditional students going straight from high school to college have it hard enough. They're racking up unprecedentedly massive student loans in their four (or five, or eight) years of undergrad alone, and even more if they decide to go on to graduate or professional school.
That's burden enough when you're 21, single, and parentally subsidized -- when your other weekly concerns include where to get drunk for "Thirsty Thursday," and whether watching re-runs of Mr. Rogers or going to BIO 319 will be better for your longterm happiness. But for nontraditional students returning to school later in life, who may have to juggle a career, a spouse, children, and personal fulfillment, the financial burden is just the half of it. The incredible time commitment involved is another big resource drain.
According to this infographic by Rasmusen College, intensive fast-track learning programs are gaining in popularity, nontraditional students get through their education and on with their already over-scheduled lives in as little as 18 months. The graphic cites many advantages of fast-track education, including flexible credit-forwarding programs, savings on tuition (though this depends on the institution -- some of them can be outright rackets), and a shorter wait before students can get on with their career goals.