Dr. Richard Pattenaude: Who Are Our Students?

who are our students

Describe the “typical” Ashford University student. This description is something I am asked to provide very often, and it is always difficult to formulate a comprehensive response. I know that Ashford University strives to be an institution for individuals who are committed to pursuing opportunities in their lives, their careers, and their communities. But who are the men and women who decide to pursue these life-changing opportunities at Ashford?

First, let’s look at some interesting statistical information. Ashford students come from virtually every state in the nation. The bulk of our students are in California, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. I should also note that we have 138 non-military international students. This fact is a little surprising since Ashford does not advertise outside of the United States. I guess the students just find us online. Isn't the internet amazing? Furthermore, the majority of our students are female (approximately 70%) and almost half of our students are minorities. I am also pleased to note that 26% of our students are military or in a military family. Our students come from all walks of life, and most of our students have some college experience.

So, from a demographic point of view, the “typical” Ashford student is likely to be a woman over the age of 25, is an undergraduate student, lives in the southern region of the U.S., and works full- or part-time. Not wealthy, she will most likely receive a Pell Grant and other financial aid.

This sketch, which by no means captures all of our students or does justice to the wonderful diversity in our student body, helps me to understand the courage and dedication that our students possess. Studying alone and at a great distance from classmates and faculty members requires discipline.

That said, we recognize that our students have busy lives, jobs, children, complex responsibilities, and academic skills that are possibly a little rusty. As a result, they are more at risk than a student who is coming straight from high school. That is why we offer advising, support resources, and smaller classes to help students thrive in the online environment and successfully graduate.

As a new graduate, the fictional “typical” student we described above will join the nearly 18,000 Ashford students across the country who graduated during the 2013-14 academic year. One of the most gratifying aspects of being the President of Ashford University is witnessing entire families celebrating at commencement, smiling from ear to ear and hugging everyone in sight – including me, sometimes!

I am also pleased to report that our “typical” graduate will view her time with us positively. In fact, surveys indicate that about 90% of our graduates are satisfied or very satisfied with their experience at Ashford and the value it adds to their life and career.

Whether they fit into the “typical” Ashford demographic or not, there is one thing that every student who earns a diploma from Ashford University has in common: they are a source of joy for us. Their success is our success.


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Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude is the President and CEO of Ashford University.

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