Sep 2, 2011

And who are the Undergrads?

Sometimes it seems like everyone is bumping elbows to get into the most selective private colleges in the country.

But in reality, the vast majority of students want a college education to support career goals and improve their quality of life—regardless of where the school happens to land on the USNWR pecking order.

They aren’t looking for prestige or counting notches from the top of rankings. They are looking for the opportunity to learn and grow.

To show who today’s undergrads really are, The Chronicle recently crunched some numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). What they found isn’t too surprising to those of us who work with local college-bound high school students and routinely visit campuses all over the country.

In a nutshell, most college students are actually attending community colleges and public four-year institutions, and a huge percent of those students attend school on a part time basis (35 percent).

In fact, the college “experience” for most students isn’t all about climbing walls and lazy rivers. Students coming from families with smaller annual incomes are not as likely to go to a four-year selective college that offers these kinds of perks. And because they’re often working, it’s got to be all about the studying.

Here are The Chronicle’s results:


  • 39.4% of undergrads attend community college

  • 37.5% attend a public 4-year institution

  • 16.5% attend private nonprofits

  • 0.4% attend Ivy League colleges

  • 25.1% come from families or living situations with incomes less than $20,000/year

  • 2.1% have incomes over $200,000

For students with families earning less than $40,000:



  • 50% attend a public 2-year institution

  • 22.7% attend a public 4-year institution

  • 8.6% attend a private, nonprofit institution

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