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Monday, June 12, 2023

College Inequality

Many posts have discussed economic and educational inequality. The effects of inequality reach many corners of American life.

Ari Pinkus at The American Communities Project:
Nationally, just 34% of Americans ages 25 or older have a four-year college degree. The numbers are very uneven around the country. The range runs from 42% in the affluent, multicultural, professional Urban Suburbs to 16% in the young, rural, and low-income Native American Lands.

In College Town counties, 38% have college degrees, just above the national average. These 171 counties, often located in and around more rural, settled areas, present a good example of varying educational levels colliding. After all, many are not yet college graduates. Others hold master’s, professional, and/or doctoral degrees. Still others outside the college structure may not have nor be on track toward a bachelor’s degree. It’s not uncommon for town-gown relations to be strained, even contentious at times.

Meanwhile, in Rural Middle America and Aging Farmlands, comprising 896 counties in the Plains and the country’s upper tier, many have derided college and are pushing for a broader educational focus on the trades. In each county type, just over 20% have college degrees. While bachelor’s degree percentages are lowest in Native American Lands, bachelor’s figures are also low in young, rural, Hispanic Centers in the West, Southwest, and Florida; Working Class Country, lower-income communities in Appalachia; and Evangelical Hubs, lower-income communities in the South with high numbers of Evangelical adherents.

In 2020, Barabara Jacoby wrote at Inside Higher Ed:

The “new normal” we’re all talking about entails huge changes to residence halls and residential life. But, with or without COVID-19, the stark reality is that less than 15 percent of college students live on campuses. And their number is likely to shrink this fall as more students have to commute from home because of coronavirus-related family and financial issues or are forced into off-campus housing as a result of reducing dorm density.

Commuter students are defined as those who do not live in institution-owned housing on campuses. They make up more than 85 percent of today’s college students.

Their numbers include students of traditional age who live with their parents, those who live in rental housing near the campus, adults with full-time careers and parents living with their own children. Forty-one percent are 25 years of age or older, and 39 percent attend part-time. As many as 70 percent of full-time students work while enrolled in college, as do almost all part-time students. Those characteristics are more likely to apply to commuter students and, despite COVID-19’s disruptions, are also more likely to hold true in the upcoming academic year.