Today's college student population is becoming more diverse than ever before. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has done a comprehensive investigation into who the population of college students are in today's world and have found that the college student population has changed rapidly over the last several decades. More and more "nontraditional" students are in our universities than ever before, yet many universities are still designed for students coming straight out of high school and who are proceeding on to attend 4-year universities to get degrees. This is cited by their foundation as the biggest problem colleges face today; as students become an increasingly diverse population colleges must change to address their ever-changing needs.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's chief concern with colleges is that they must change their approach to education and make themselves more student-centered. Colleges must change to meet today's diverse demographic of college students by taking on a student-centered approach and putting the student first. That's the only way more students are going to be able to receive the education they need to improve their lives.
What is Different About Today's College Population?
To start off with the basics the most recent numbers released by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's comprehensive study shows that 56% of college students today are female while 44% are male. Many college students are also going back to school later in life as well as 1 in 5 or 20% of college students are aged 30+. For today's students, 40% are attending 2-year schools and 60% are attending 4-year universities.
Students who are attending college are also experiencing many different life circumstances than students in the past. Some of the observations released by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation observed that:
Students today are of more and more various ethnic backgrounds
Only 58% of students today identify as white or Caucasian while 17% are Hispanic, 7% Asian/Pacific Islander, 3% are biracial, and 1% are American Indian or Alaska Native. Minority students make up a total of 42% of college students today. Colleges must continue to change to work to help these students succeed.
Some students are choosing to enroll part-time
Only 63% of college students go to school full-time. The other 37% are part-time students. Colleges need to make sure their programs are friendly for part-time students to attend their schools as more students are choosing this option.
More college students are having to work to pay for school
A total of 62% of college students is working part or full-time jobs while they are in school. Colleges are faced with having to help create an environment where these students can balance the demands of work and school to get their education while still keeping their jobs.
A majority of students are receiving financial aid
Currently, 61% of students are receiving Pell Grants while 39% receive no financial aid. Colleges need to be aware of how expensive school is and strive to do what they can to make an education affordable and accessible to all students.
A majority of students are living off campus
Only 41% of college students are living in campus housing whether it's on or near their college campus. A staggering 49% of college students today are living in other housing that is not affiliated with the college they attend. Colleges need to ensure that they are taking the various commutes of their students into consideration, especially in bad weather as they come to classes each day. Easily accessible campuses with extra parking for commuters will make colleges more friendly and appeal to students considering that school. About 10% are staying with family or a guardian while going to school.
College students are oftentimes not only providing for themselves but also for a dependent such as their own children
While a large majority, 72% to be exact, do not have children that will mean that about 28% or about 1 in 4 college students trying to provide for themselves and one or more dependents while they are trying to get an education. This means that working and studying are huge parts of their lives. Colleges are needing to accommodate this change in more "non-traditional" students to help them learn and achieve their educational goals as well.
Colleges are also seeing an increase in online learning as well
Currently, 14% of students use a blend of online classes and classroom courses to get a degree and 13% are going online only. While 73% still go to the classroom to learn online education is at least, in part, accounting for about 25% of the education college students are getting today.
If colleges are not willing to adapt to this increasingly diverse group of students and the circumstances they are in they will find themselves alienating many potential learners. This makes "modernizing" education and helping to make it accessible for everyone more important than ever.
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