American Education (2000-Present)

The non-traditional student has overtaken the traditional student as the norm on college campuses. With a college degree increasingly required for a middle-class career, the average student is no longer an 18 year old white male who is financially supported by his family. This shift in student demographics contributes to the booming for-profit sector and increasing enrollment in online courses.

American Education (2000-Present) American Education (2000-Present) American Education (2000-Present) American Education (2000-Present) American Education (2000-Present)

First Generation Students

There is a push from many levels to increase the enrollment of first-generation college students (students whose parents and grandparents didn't attend college), as well as students from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mandates that high schools desegregate their testing data by student subgroup, which shines a spotlight on the achievement gaps between races and social classes. The attention to the achievement gap contributes increased support, and an increased push, for non-traditional students to attend college. Reports of the struggles that first-generation students may have at college reveal that while these students are now matriculating in higher numbers, many still struggle to graduate.

Older Students

The growth of online universities encourages another under-served population back into the classroom: older students. Online courses allow students who are above the traditional college age to adapt their study to their work schedules, and to take classes at a pace that fits their lives. Low graduation rates from online universities may reveal one of two things: That older students are struggling to graduate, or that older students are interested in taking courses to satisfy specific work-related or personal goals rather than to attain a degree.

The Changing "Traditional" Student

College isn't the same for "traditional" students either. Students from all backgrounds are taking longer to complete their BA, with many taking more than 6 years. There are more women than men enrolled in college, and fewer students are seeking the traditional 4-years-on-campus experience. As a result there has been a boom in the business of for-profit universities, which reveal themselves to be flexible to student desires and needs. In an effort to satisfy all students, many schools are moving towards a “brick and click” model where they will have both a physical and online classroom component.

Degree Needed for Financial Stability

Most high-paying careers available during this time require at least a BA. The number of middle-class non-degree-requiring job options is shrinking rapidly: numerous jobs that previously fit that bill have been outsourced. The remaining jobs that pay well and don't require a degree are primarily in vocational and/or mechanical trades, which may instead require a certificate. However, as the baby boomer generation ages, there is a growing demand for workers in lower-paying jobs. For example, the demand is increasing for home health aides, a position that does not require a degree and does not pay a middle-class wage.

Take Aways

  1. The non-traditional student has overtaken the traditional student as the norm on college campuses.
  2. The for-profit and online education sectors boom, with mixed academic results.
  3. A Bachelor's Degree is increasingly required for financial success.