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Today’s College Student: Getting By While Moving Forward

What’s your idea of the typical college student? Does her routine look anything like this?

“Many of our students start their days by taking their child to day care on the bus. Then they take the subway to college, then ride a different bus to their job, another bus to pick up their child and a final bus to go home. Once home, they still need to cook dinner, help their child with homework, tuck the child in, tidy up and complete their own college coursework.

“Many of these students have jobs that are part-time and pay the minimum wage; their schedules can vary wildly, making the fragile balance of each day complex.”

That’s Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College in Long Island, writing in the New York Times about misconceptions regarding today’s college student. While, yes, she’s advocating for increased public and private funding for community colleges as well as better student access to flexible federal and state financial aid, enhanced paid internships and college work-study, the thrust of her message is to correct society’s stereotypical notion of who is attending college in the United States.

Along the way, she paints a helpful picture of the evolving profile of today’s college student — something everyone in enrollment management should keep in mind.

“You might think the typical college student lives in a state of bliss, spending each day moving among classes, parties and extracurricular activities,” Mellow writes. “But the reality is that an increasingly small population of undergraduates enjoys that kind of life.”

Actually, of the nearly 18 million undergraduate students in the U.S., more than half live at home to make pursuing their degree more affordable. Forty-percent work at least 30 hours a week; an astounding 25 percent work full-time and go to school full-time.

“The typical college student is also not fresh out of high school,” Mellow writes. “A quarter of undergraduates are older than 25, and about the same number are single parents.”

Getting by while trying to move forward: This is the emerging image of the average college student. And correcting misconceptions about who is pursuing higher education “is the first step toward helping these hard-working and ambitious students, eager to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

Read Mellow’s entire op-ed here.

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed

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