Span Plan is dedicated to fostering an environment that empowers undergraduate nontraditional students, enrolled through Purdue’s West Lafayette location, to navigate their unique educational path by providing access to financial and academic resources, specialized guidance, and engagement opportunities that develop confidence beyond the classroom.
Span Plan advocates on behalf of our undergraduate nontraditional students with departments across campus to build a strong foundation of support that addresses nontraditional student situations and fosters an environment of inclusion. This is accomplished by providing students the opportunity to gather and share experiences to create community, forming programs that address the unique barriers of accessing resources, and acknowledging the needs of different learning aspirations. Span Plan ensures nontraditional students are valued as a dynamic asset in the classroom and their needs are addressed through the services and programs, we provide to assist with degree completion.
Span Plan serves undergraduate students, enrolled through Purdue’s West Lafayette Campus, who identify with one or more of the following nontraditional attributes as defined by Span Plan at Purdue:
- Are married
- Have children/are expecting
- File the FAFSA as Independent or are age 24+
- Have a delayed college enrollment from high school of 2+ years or other education gap
- Transferred to Purdue at age 23+
Each semester, Purdue West Lafayette’s enrollment of nontraditional students hovers around almost 900 domestic students. Our programs and services are built from three pillars; access, opportunity, and resources to help our nontraditional students succeed in the classroom.
Span Plan supports an incredibly diverse student population and inclusion is a top priority for us. We are always striving to participate in and share opportunities that support, resonate with, and represent the multitude of identities our students may hold. We work to ensure that when students come to our physical space, receive communications from us, and engage with our program, that they feel welcome, supported and represented in a safe way.
The door to education can seem even heavier to open as a nontraditional undergraduate student. Span Plan is here to help students reach their education goals by clearing a path and ensuring they have a support system on their journey!
- Campus Welcome Program: A 3-day orientation program for new and returning students held each fall. Filled with sessions from campus partners and resource access, to building community and riding the city bus, we cover it all at NO cost.
- Education and Social Workshops: A variety of connection points are held throughout the school year that fill our students’ academic toolbox and create connections to essential campus success tools and build their network of student peers.
The opportunity to be a student while juggling family life, jobs and other commitments that can be polarizing for nontraditional students is important for their success. Span Plan students can engage in a community of support from our office and their peers.
- Span Plan Students hold paid positions in our office as student employees while taking on a peer mentoring role. Beginning fall 2019, Span Plan has provided employment opportunities to more than six Span Plan students who provide intentional support and outreach to almost 900 students each semester! While offering flexible paid school positions specific for our students, our student employees have been instrumental as ambassadors through direct phone calls, office hours, and personal notes in the mail to our entire nontraditional student population.
- Advocacy is essential to providing equal opportunity for all students. Our efforts to address subpar lactation space standards resulted in additional cleaning measures and standards being provided for these spaces. An increase in staff and faculty contacts on behalf of expecting parents is allowing us to intervene and make sure our parenting students have options to complete their degree. Campus partner outreach and conversations helped us create a new parenting student space in Purdue Libraries, education on student schedule building, and continued growth of our students during Nontraditional Student Week.
- Nontraditional Student Week and service programs help us build our own student community and develop those relationships throughout the campus and greater community. During nontraditional student week we take the opportunity to highlight and appreciate all the different categories of students that make up our Span Plan population. We provide giveaways specific to our student populations, give each population a specific day of acknowledgment and celebration, and highlight those students to the campus community via our social media platforms and newsletter outreach. This week allows us the opportunity to highlight successes and challenges giving a vivid voice to the nontraditional student experience. We continue to offer the opportunity for students to engage in annual service projects such as potting plants, planting flags, blood drives, etc.
From financial to academic resources, Span Plan continues to innovate and look for effective ways to meet student needs.
- Scholarship support specifically for nontraditional students has fully implemented a renewable model that allows students to make better decisions about their finances. This, coupled with more intentional education regarding financial aid resources, policies and appeals that directly impact nontraditional students is allowing critical resources to get to our students.
- Student resources are continuously being developed to assist students. While Span Plan does not have a physical center, we are utilizing available space to respond to student needs by providing a gathering area for studying, quiet time and even a microwave to heat up lunch.
- Campus partners play a critical role in assisting Span Plan in delivering important programs and information. Throughout the year, we work with campus and community partners to hold sessions that help highlight and give a face to many resources on campus; from budgeting, using Brightspace to working with CAPS, the continued support and time given to these sessions built for nontraditional students are critical for students to make connections to the resources they need.
As a result of participating in the programming and outreach efforts of Span Plan, nontraditional undergraduate students will:
- Grow in their ability to effectively navigate campus and access resources available to enhance their experience and success;
- Engage in a community of their peers and reduce feelings of isolation through academic and collective gatherings;
- Build leadership and networking skills by participating in student groups and community partnerships that help them to advocate and engage beyond their peers and in both the campus and community at large; and
- Demonstrate improved persistence rates among their nontraditional peers due to a reduction of institutional barriers such as technology and resource access.
Notable Changes From 2022-23 Academic Year
- In August of 2023, we held a successful campus welcome program with a variety of information sessions with 11+ campus and community partners
- We continue to participate in Boiler Cold Rush as part of their tabling event during their opening ceremony. Looking forward, we continue to look for opportunities to engage with Spring start students specifically to ensure they have a comprehensive welcome to campus, equal opportunity and access to our resources such as scholarships and events upon their first semester, not having to wait until August to receive a “campus welcome” experience.
- Family/guest friendly programming opportunities are gaining a lot more interest/engagement/attendance (During our annual outing to Exploration Acres, we had a total of 26 attendees)
- Student space usage continues to be well utilized, one of Span Plan’s most utilized resources by our student population.
- We continue to make good use of the designated student employee office which provides us with the ability to accommodate one working student at a time and to take one-on-one meetings with students to accommodate for confidential conversations.
- The student/study space has allowed us to accommodate one more study/work area, we are now able to accommodate 4+ people working/studying in the student space at a time. There is the addition of a workspace that has university equipment for students who don’t have their own technology to be able to log on and study or work, a station for those who are bringing their own technology with them, and two tabletop workstations for those who have books and papers to spread out for things like math work. This space also accommodates those just stopping by for a snack, to heat up and eat their lunch, etc.
- What was piloted in the summer of 2022 as the first undergraduate specific lactation space, is in the process of transitioning into a multipurpose room to serve our students. With feedback and use requests from students utilizing our space in Krach, we have learned that the space exclusively as a lactation space isn’t the primary use our students are looking for any longer. What students have used it for is a space to have meetings that are part of group projects for classes, to participate in virtual classes/exams, to participate in virtual job interviews, etc. We plan to add this space to the university scheduling system so that specifically nontraditional students can reserve it (much like the family friendly space in HSSE) for a specific time block to utilize, making for a more streamlined and accessible experience. This space also will continue to serve as a lactation space and family friendly space for undergraduate nontraditional students who have the need to utilize the space for that purpose, we are just expanding the use of the space to make more comprehensive and inclusive use of it and to continue to meet the everchanging needs of our student population.
- We still have the goal of adding more desirable features like a refrigerator/freezer, reading material, alternative lighting, a sound machine, etc.
- Our student space (open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.) continues to gain more utilization than it has historically and has become one of Span Plan’s most utilized resources amongst our student population.
- Fall 2022 Student Space Usage:
- 186 visits to the space, by 26 students, for a total of 368.4 hours
- Spring 2023 Student Space Usage:
- 140 visits to the space, by 25 students, for a total of 240 hours
- Fall 2023 Student Space Usage (so far, up to the week of Nov. 13th 2023):
- 81 visits to the space, by 31 students, for a total of 104.75 hours
- A couple of impactful anecdotes regarding our space:
- The student who utilized our space the most in fall of 2022 visited our space 46 times, for a total of 93.75 hours and is a military connected student, shared with the VMSC.
- The student who utilized our space the most in spring of 2023 visited our space 45 times, for a total of 126 hours
- Scholarship Data Points
- During the summer 2022, fall 2022 and spring of 2023 semesters, we awarded a total of $71,575 in scholarship (academic and parenting combined) support to a total of 38 unique students.
- Span Plan has been back to functioning via in-person programming, making virtual accommodations when necessary, during the 22-23 academic year, though people seemed to want to engage in person and virtually opportunities provided were not heavily utilized. We still look for opportunities to engage virtually with our students who are simply not able to make it in person even if they are local, but also to engage with our vet nursing distance learning students as appropriate.
- The Span Plan Student Coaching program model has shifted into a student employment model but continued with two students employed during the 22-23 academic year. They made phone calls during the summer to help promote a campus welcome. They also sent out mailers for birthdays, words of encouragement, and are available for one-on-one peer support on an as needed basis. As of September 2023, Span Plan has only one employee (in addition to the director), a Span Plan graduate and former Student Coach/Employee who now occupies a part time, temporary employment role with the university on Span Plan’s team as a communications and event coordinator.
- The move to renewable scholarships continues to show great effectiveness in the persistence and graduation rates of our recipients. Beginning January 2021, a second scholarship cycle was added to provide more opportunity to apply for scholarship funding.
- Held summer scholarship workshops to prepare students for the scholarship application deadline.
- While there is no longer a Big10 Peer Network, looking forward Span Plan is considering the formation of a Purdue campus and local community-based network/advisory council of sorts to help inform our work and programming as the student population continues to shift and change so that we can better meet their needs as a program.
- Beyond 2023, we are looking for opportunities to best support Purdue Indianapolis students who meet Span Plan eligibility. For the 23-24 academic year, this mostly will take shape via opening scholarship applications (academic and parenting) to Purdue Indy students who are eligible to apply and also connecting with students during Boiler Gold Rush in Indianapolis as part of the orientation process. Once we continue to learn more about Purdue Indy students and demographics wise eligibility of those students as it pertains to Span Plan, we will be able to shift our efforts as needed to support those students in their journey in Indianapolis.
Span Plan is intentionally working to build data collection that helps to best tell our student story. Due to the nature of work, it is important to consider that relationship between large data and personal experiences is paramount to accurately depicting the life of a nontraditional student.
Annual Data Collections
- Span Plan has continued new and returning student identification that leads to cohort coding in Purdue systems. This data allows for inclusion in programs such as Boiler Connect, Brightspace, and other university-led assessments.
- We have created new contact points to help track the engagement of our students. Separate instances of connection points, study space usage, student employee interactions, and other service-related interactions helps us understand the correlation and effectiveness of Span Plan within the nontraditional student population.
- We will continue to ask our graduates to complete a survey to better understand their success and challenges, along with the usefulness of Span Plan. Identifying these items can help us create more effective programs and outreach efforts to serve students.
Long-term Assessment Goals
- Much of Span Plan’s success with students relies on our ability to be seen as a program on campus, as well as a resource for referrals from faculty and staff. Developing a Purdue community climate survey will help us develop our next steps when we know if/how we are seen on campus beyond our students.
- This data will assist with the development of a nontraditional/parenting student ally program, isolating gaps in awareness.
- Creating a logic model is an effort to create a roadmap that demonstrates the shared relationship Span Plan has with the campus community, unique programming, and impact on the nontraditional student population. This effort can better help define Span Plan’s mission and efficacy while focusing our high-impact outcomes. The logic model can serve as an archival piece that shows the changes, adjustments and movement of Span Plan that is not easy to see from the first 50 years of the program.
- A longitudinal study of Span Plan students and their movement will be critical in the coming years as the landscape of high school graduates and “typical” college student are anticipated to change. Identifying norms or changes of our student population can lead to greater conversation around the change in college student make-up and the preparation involved in creating an environment that is welcoming for all students.
For a full picture of our data from the 2022-23 academic year, please view or download our Full Annual Report by clicking the button below.Download Full Report