Joe College doesn’t go here anymore

The Typical College Student Is Not Who You Think It Is, writes Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. Joe College and Betty Co-Ed are a tiny minority.

Lumina Foundation’s Jamie Merisotis asks: “What percentage of students in American higher education today graduated from high school and enrolled in college within a year to attend a four year institution and live on campus?”


Most college graduates guess “between forty and sixty percent,” he said, at an Aspen event. “The correct answer is five percent.”

Policy makers and the media are obsessed with elite students and colleges, warns Clay Shirky. “Public conversations about college are increasingly irrelevant to the lives of many of the actual students.”

Of the twenty million or so students in the US, only about one in ten lives on a campus. The remaining eighteen million—the ones who don’t have the grades for Swarthmore, or tens of thousands of dollars in free cash flow, or four years free of adult responsibility—are relying on education after high school not as a voyage of self-discovery but as a way to acquire training and a certificate of hireability.

. . . the bulk of students today are in their mid-20s or older, enrolled at a community or commuter school, and working towards a degree they will take too long to complete. One in three won’t complete, ever. Of the rest, two in three will leave in debt. The median member of this new student majority is just keeping her head above water financially.

“The bottom quintile is drowning,” he writes.

quarter of college students are enrolled full-time in four-year residential colleges and universities, according to a 2011 Complete College America survey. That includes some who are older students or living off-campus.

Student parents — “college kids with kids” — need flexible programs write Merisotis and Anne-Marie Slaughter in the New York Times. They advocate streamlining federal financial aid for online competency-based programs.

Colleges fail older, part-time students

Recent high school graduates enrolled full-time at residential colleges make up only 15 percent of college students.  Colleges are failing their older, working, part-time students who make up the “new majority.”

Community college leaders worry that President Obama’s college ratings system will penalize open-access schools. Part-time students, who make up the majority at community colleges, aren’t tracked by the federal data system. Some students — nobody knows how many — say they’re seeking a degree to qualify for federal aid when they’re really trying to learn a job skill.

Competency credits ‘unbundle’ college

When nearly three out of four students aren’t enrolled in full-time, four-year degree programs, it’s time to drop “seat time” credits in favor of credits for competency, writes Daniel Greenstein of the Gates Foundation. “Unbundling college will help adult students.

However, documenting students’ competency is challenging.

It’s the learning, stupid

Orlando’s Valencia College graduates nearly thee times more students than the average at large urban community colleges. How do they do it?

College instructors need to design courses to meet the needs of “new traditional” students, adults who’ve been out of high school for years, writes a community college professor.

Back to college? It’s not easy

Twenty percent of working-age adults have some college credits but no degree. persuading college dropouts to try again is a key part of the “completion agenda.” But college can be just as hard the second time around, especially if adults try to take classes designed and scheduled for 18- to 22-year-olds.

President Obama’s 2020 goal — the U.S. will be first in the world in college graduates — requires community colleges to graduate many more students. But state budget cuts will make it very difficult to increase the number of graduates, say most state community college directors. Sixteen states have de facto enrollment caps at community colleges.

Higher ed ignores adult students’ needs

Only 15 percent of college students are recent high school graduates living on campus.  Colleges and universities must focus on the needs of adult students, who urgently need job training, but don’t need professors with PhDs teaching on the traditional academic calendar.

Also on  Community College Spotlight: The most selective colleges with the fewest low-income students receive the most taxpayer subsidies.


A cheaper, faster, online degree

After a shaky start, Western Governors University — an accredited, low-cost, nonprofit online university — is helping working adults earn degrees quickly and cheaply. WGU degrees are based on mastery, not on “seat time,” enabling the average bachelor’s graduate to finish a degree in 30 months for about $15,000.

Also on Community College SpotlightWomen make up nearly half the community college faculty in science, math and technology fields.

More adult students? Please, no

Don’t encourage more adults to enroll in college classes, unless they’re prepared to earn a degree, a college professor writes. Graduation rates are very low for adult students.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Imitating for-profit colleges, a California community college has created a fast-track degree program for people with full-time jobs. Students will take classes one night a week, Saturdays and online.

Why students persist

Adult students who connect with an instructor persist in community college.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Community colleges must compete for job training funds with for-profit career colleges.