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.
A 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.