In the midst of all that hype of how you’re going to get into college and pay for it, one very important question gets lost: Who is actually going to college?
Although pop culture spins it a certain way, most students are not focusing all their attention on trying to get into the most selective private colleges in the nation with hopes of becoming the next president of the United States, CEO of some conglomerate that secretly owns everything, or just desperate to live up their wealthy family’s noble legacy and tradition. The vast majority of students just want a college education to help them make a better living than statistics tell them they’d have otherwise.
The Chronicle recently published an article explaining that most college students are actually attending community colleges and public four-year colleges and that a huge portion of those students attend school part-time–a fact that is often overlooked. That’s definitely a tidbit that’s left out of the popular American conception of the “college experience.” In fact, the American “college experience” of Greek Life, football games, partying is not what the actual college experience is for everybody. Students that come from families with smaller annual incomes are not as likely to go to a four-year selective college that offers that kind of “typical” college culture.
To help us grasp what the undergraduate landscape is accurately like, The Chronicle crunched numbers from 2007-8 in two data sets from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Here are some of the trends they found:
- 39.4% of undergraduates attend community college
- 37.5% of undergraduates attend public 4-year institution
- 16.5% of undergraduates attend private nonprofits
- 6.6% of undergraduates attend for-profits
- 25.1% of undergraduates annual income of parents and/or independents is less than $20,000
- 2.1% of undergraduates annual income of parents and/or independents is more than $200,000
Here is the breakdown of colleges attended by students from families earning less than $40,000:
Public 2-year – 50.0%
Public 4-year – 6.8%
Other public 4-year- 15.9%
Nonprofit research-extensive and liberal arts colleges – 1.6%
Other private, nonprofit 4-year – 7.0%
Private for-profit – 15.3%
Others – 3.4%
Do these numbers surprise you? What’s the college experience you want or have had?