College students are often more than 24 years of age, working at least part time and enrolled in non-selective schools, reports The Wall Street Journal. Also, a larger share are nonwhite, with the most dramatic gains over the past 20 years coming among Hispanic students.
Pulling from the most recent demographic and education data, the WJS constructs the profile of the typical college student and highlights the diverse backgrounds of a growing share of degree seekers. The international student population also soared as institutions look abroad for full-paying learners to bolster their finances.
Liberal arts and humanities, much maligned by politicians, remain the most popular degree programs for many college students. Rounding out the top three are business and health-related programs. But few students pay full freight, receiving need- or merit-based grants from their institutions. Nearly 85% of students at private, nonprofit undergraduate programs colleges receive aid from their schools.
As higher education reform legislation moves through Congress, lawmakers must look to address the needs of this often overlooked class of degree seekers. New demographic and economic realities, as well as, power shifts on Capitol Hill suggest that higher education is prime for change. Additionally, Republican legislation to reform higher education — the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act — also suggests changes are in store. As the WSJ reported last year, “The bill aims to fundamentally reorient the college marketplace by focusing on student outcomes.”
This could be good or bad news for degree seekers. Framing the education reform debate around the millions of diverse adult learners, in need of better options, is a good start. However, it remains to be seen if the current Congress can move the system in the right direction.
Recent history suggests not so.Take Berea College for example.The Kentucky-based wealthy liberal arts college is lauded for providing tuition-free education to its entirely low-income student body. Yet, amid the recent Congressional tax fight, Berea College got hit with a new endowment tax that was intended for wealthy schools who don’t spend as much on student financial aid.