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New Era of Higher Education, Distance Learning, and Working Adults:

This blog post is in response to an article from New York Times and it explains a report from public agenda with the title “With Their While Lives Ahead of Them” and was written by Bill and Melinda gates foundation. Some six hundred young adults of age groups 22- 30 who had quit college before acquiring a degree were surveyed.

I oppose the opening comment that was made by Tamar Lewin “Only 1 out of 5 students who enroll in 2 year institutions graduates within 3 years. And even with 4-year colleges, only 2 out of 5 students finish their degree within 6 years”.

As mentioned in past, the 3 and 6-year timeframes need to be examined before they are criticized. Taking more time to complete the degree than usual duration (150% point meaning, three years for 2-year course and six years for 4-year course) is often more a function of the population attending college than of the education system. 85% of college students are either part time students or adult learners, well past the average student age, who have full time jobs work while working towards their bachelor degree. We must think about longer time frame, which permits how such students pursue for completion of degree.

I believe that online degrees at state funded universities and colleges maybe their best path because it helps to resolve the issue of finances and time.

  • Sixty percent of people who dropped out in middle did not have any financial support from their parents for education.
  • Sixty percent of students who received financial assistance from parents were able to complete their degree.
  • Among people who dropped out, sixty percent did not have loan aid or scholarship when completing, only forty percent did not get any assistance.
  • The #1 reason for quitting is that they could not support themselves without any financial help from parents and attend colleges at same time.
  • More than one out of three stated that even if they have sufficient funds to cover books and tuition, they were not able to return to school due to obligations of work and family.
  • Among the students who completed, 72% were of annual income range of $35,000 while people who dropped out more than fifty percent of households were having income of less than $35000 per year.

What stands out? One is 85% issue. The public policies are made with the assumption that college students are attending full-time on campus and joining directly from high school and get financial support from parents. But the actual truth is that 85% are older, and/or study part-time and/or working and/or financially independent. The 2nd is that students having lower income have substantial challenges. Lot of students who have lower income belong to this 85% group.

It is no miracle, that survey respondents did not consider the solutions as making application process easier or adding online courses. To increase the completion rate students need financial support, cost-reduction and facilities for childcare, which permit more financial support for part-time students. However with online learning at state funded colleges costs drop dramatically and child care is much less of an issue.

What results are found by this study? Will any person listen to actual facts regarding the challenges faced by huge population of present-day college students? We must drop the assumption that high school students and their parents are singular audience for decision making of public policies for higher education and be realistic in our assessment of education in the 21st century.

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