Colleges Are Failing Their Biggest Group of Students
A large number of Americans enrolled in a degree program are non-traditional—students who are older, financially independent, have children, or have full or part-time jobs—and they're not getting the support they need.
In 2012, I graduated from college seven years late. At times, it was painful to watch my peers move away and on to jobs that were unavailable to me as a dropout. Friends I began my undergraduate education with had already finished master’s programs and were embarking on their careers while I was still chipping away at core requirements.
David Scobey, Dean of New School for Public Engagement, says, “the program is not intended to be punitive, but that is the effect. Financial aid is set up to favor full-time students, and very few institutions have good services for adult students. There’s a whole host of reasons why completion rates are lower, and this might be the wrong solution. It’s true that students who are going to school part time have proportionally less success in completing degrees. That’s partly because we have done such a terrible job in higher education of understanding the majority of undergraduates who have to work, more than half of whom are enrolled part time.”
Earlier this year, Obama announced a plan to increase the portion of American students earning college degrees by 2020. The US figure for 25-to-34-year-old college grads has been slipping, as has its ranking among other nations; we’re now 16th, down from 12th in 2011. If we want to increase the number of college grads, and college grads with in-demand skills, we should focus on better supporting the biggest and fastest growing group of students—the new majority.