Who Are Our Graduates and to What Are They Graduating?

The Huffington Post has just published “One Venn Diagram That Every College Graduate Should Give a Good Long Look”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/14/college-graduate-venn-diagram_n_7286722.html.

It provides a humorous look at the sometimes difficult transition from the quasi-adulthood of one’s college years to full adulthood in the much more demanding workaday world.

Although the Venn Diagram is humorous and undoubtedly applies to many “traditional” college students from more affluent backgrounds, the following graphs from a May 2014 report on the “Characteristics of Postsecondary Students” suggest that many of our students are to some extent juggling the worst of both worlds—the academic responsibilities of college and the responsibilities of employment:

 

Graph 1

 

Graph 2

 

The report was produced by the Institute for Educational Statistics and is available at: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_csb.asp

So there is a strange disconnect at work here.

On the one hand, we have a deepening awareness of how the rising out-of-pocket costs of attending college have been changing the “college experience” for many, if not most, of our students and their families.

On the other hand, we continue to adhere to and even to have deepening affection for the long-established but increasingly obsolete cultural imagery associated with that experience.

Our nostalgia has an extra poignancy because we know that it is not simply a product of the inexorable passage of time and inevitable cultural change.

It is, instead, largely the product of an ideological antipathy toward public education and, more broadly, toward almost all public institutions. It is the product of deliberate policy choices and not the result of any sort of unpredictable or unfortunate circumstances–though those who have engineered these policy choices would like to pass them off as unavoidable.

 

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