You may have seen this patriotism video put out by actor and professional wrestler John Cena. While there’s a lot to note about the video, I really enjoyed the play on perception versus reality in profile of the “average” American. I immediately drew a connection to higher education.
So, close your eyes (figuratively, as I want you to keep reading).
Think about the average college student’s experience.
What are you imagining?
When people – inside and outside of higher education – think about college students, they often think about 18-22 year olds attending on-campus/ground courses at four-year institutions. Movies, television, and music often portray college in this sense, as well. Stores market to those populations in promoting college-readiness supplies, materials, and merchandise. Higher Education even regularly refers to undergraduate students 25 or older as “non-traditional” students. These are perceptions, but how do they stack up against reality?
The reality is:
- 56% of all college-attending students are female (source)
- 35% of all college-attending students attend two-year institutions (source)
- 75% of all undergraduate students are 25 or older (source)
- 41% of college-attending students are people of color (source)
- 8 million of college-attending students are enrolled in online courses (source). This is compared to the two-year institution data, this would amount to 29% of all college-attending students.
- 11% of undergraduate students report disabilities, and an unknown (likely larger) population never declare them (source)
How does that information compare with the “average” student experience you imagined?
Does that match the way we are approaching our work?
I know there are many other sources and identity components of a student profile, but I would hope this is enough for consideration. While the John Cena video encouraged love of all Americans, my message would be consideration of all students. An actionable question for reflection is this: How are you ensuring the work you do meets the needs of all your students?