Carolin Hagelskamp, Ph.D.
This year’s Freshman Survey from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (“Cost and Financial Aid Increasingly Influence Students’ Choice of College,” The Chronicle, March 6) highlights a startling gap in the way traditional and nontraditional students conduct their college searches.
My organization, Public Agenda, recently surveyed adults between 18 and 55 who don’t have college degrees but who are planning to go back to college. We also spoke to currently enrolled community college and for-profit college students. The experiences of these students are markedly different from those represented in the Freshman Survey—all full-time students at four-year colleges:
It may very well be the case that some students are becoming savvier college shoppers, but certainly not all of them. Traditional students—e.g. those who attend school full time at four-year colleges—may be discerning and carefully comparing different schools to inform college choice. But this seems to not be the case among nontraditional students.
As the nontraditional students population steadily grows, and becomes the new traditional, we must make sure these students are not left out in the cold.