The Typical College Student
Hollywood visions of undergraduate college often evoke historic brick buildings of lore, gently sloping campus paths lined with seemingly-erudite trees. Besweatered students rest on the grass with leather knapsacks, frisbees flying overhead. A young frat pledge hands out half-sheet flyers as students file into the dining center.
With the exception of the satirical new TV series “Community,” a clear-cut stereotype of the average undergraduate college student rests comfortably in the American mindset: age 18-22, bachelor’s degree track, middle-class, full-time student, beer enthusiast, likes to sleep in. Perhaps a sprinkle of Marxism or newfound love for performance art thrown in to spice things up.
But like any other demographic pool, the fish are much more diverse than your average koi pond. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released an interactive infographic that plots undergraduate college students by age, gender, level of attendance, race, income and most importantly, type of institution. Their findings are based on the 2007-8 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study by the U.S. Department of Education.
Here are some unstereotypical highlights:
- Less than half of all undergraduates attend college full-time.
- More than 40 percent of all undergraduates are 24 or older.
- More undergraduates attend 2-year colleges than 4-year public or private universities. Hello, community college!
These stats were pulled before the economic crisis of 2008, so perhaps the next study will reveal even more unstereotypical undergraduate findings, as more people rushed back to school when the job market plummeted. Perhaps freshman dorms will begin to offer more daycare facilities for undergraduate parents, or community college will stop being known as an automatic funnel for post-high school slackers.
The undergraduate college demographic is changing, whether Van Wilder likes it or not.
For specific stats, check out the infographic here.