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Scholarship opportunities a necessity for non-traditional UNLV students

When the economy tanked, it hit older college students harder than younger ones, enrollment data from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas show.

Between 2007 and 2012, the under-25 population at the university grew 6 percent. But the older-than-25 population dropped nearly 15 percent. At the same time the job market was drying up, tuition and fees at UNLV rose more than 70 percent.

Liz Baldizan, the executive director of Community­2Campus, part of the university’s division of educational outreach, said older students tend to have more responsibilities than younger ones.

“There are so many different types of people,” she said. “You can’t really categorize them.”

Older students often work, or have families. Sometimes both. That’s why, Baldizan said, scholarships can make the difference between an older student staying in college or dropping out forever.

Baldizan’s division administers several scholarships meant for students who are returning to school later in life.

It turns out, this is more common than many people think.

In 2007, 35 percent of students at UNLV were 25 or older. That dropped to 30 percent in 2012. Nationwide, the figure is even higher, 42 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Timothy Newton, 36, took a few classes here and there years ago when he graduated from Green Valley High School, but then life got in the way.

He worked in construction, he said, and then finance. He got married in his early 20s and began raising a son.

When the marriage broke up, he took custody of his boy. He had to keep working.

Years passed. He remarried in 2008. But when the economy crashed, he began to rethink whether he should stay in the mortgage business forever.

“I was really questioning what I wanted to do,” he said.

He enrolled at UNLV and studied small-business management, figuring he might want to start his own business someday. He kept working, too, still in the mortgage business.

“In this day and age,” he said, “everyone wants to see if you have a degree of some sort. I felt like I was being passed up or overlooked because I didn’t meet some of the requirements for the higher-paying jobs.”

But paying for school is hard. With books, it can cost more than $6,000 a year to attend UNLV full time. Student loans help, but they’re not a solution. They’ll pile up and pile up until he’s buried.

This year, Newton got a Bernard Osher Foundation Re-entry Scholarship and an academic scholarship, which was enough to cover his fees and his books. The scholarship awards up to $2,500 a year for students working on their bachelor’s degree if they’ve been gone for more than five years.

Newton said he’ll graduate in December, but he plans to open his own pest control business sooner than that.

There are other scholarships available for students such as Newton, too.

The UNLV Foundation Board of Trustees Re-entry Scholarship offers $2,000 a semester, and the Re-entry Friendship Scholarship offers up to $1,000 a semester.

Thalia Dondero, a former Clark County commissioner and higher education regent, was one of four women who started the friendship scholarship 20 years ago.

“A lot of people are realizing they want to do something different,” Dondero said. “The world is changing all the time, and people need to change with it.”

The scholarship application deadline for the 2013-14 academic year is April 12.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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