Casselman: Stop Focusing on Harvard

Ben Casselman writes at that the national media needs to quit focusing on Harvard and other nationally elite schools when writing about admissions processes and financial aid. The reason: those institutions don’t reflect the reality of higher education for most students.

According to Casselman, the reality is that 75% of U.S. undergraduates attend colleges that accept at least half of their applicants.  Only one percent of students attend colleges that accept less than 10 percent of their applicants. Casselman writes that we “tend to view higher education through the eyes of private higher education” although “two-thirds of U.S. undergraduates attend public institutions.”

This is a fascinating article, because it is data-driven and paints a counter-picture to the view of higher education in many stories. Quoting Sara Goldrick-Rab from the University of Wisconsin, “The biggest issue is that people can’t afford to spend enough time in college to actually finish their darn degrees.”

For many students, getting into college isn’t the issue, it’s getting out. Students work while in school, sometimes in multiple jobs that don’t “readily align with class schedules.” Some are raising children. And, they are concerned about debt, even relatively small amounts of debt, at least compared to national private schools. Goldrick-Rab says that, because of the combination of working while going to school, raising families and supporting parents, “one little thing goes awry and it just falls apart…the consequences of it falling apart when they’re taking on all this debt are just so severe.”

This is one of the reasons why services like our office provides is important. The university–through funds students voted on by students–provides legal and conflict resolution services to students. These services aren’t just an extra for students. They are a necessity. In our latest report, 19% of students who see us said that they were thinking about leaving school because of their issue. After seeing us, that goes down to 5%. 54% of the students who see us say that their issue was affecting their academic focus. After seeing us, that goes down to 11%.

I often say that legal issues and conflicts don’t stop at the ivy walls or the ivory towers. Our office helps students focus on their academics and to stay in school.  It’s a necessary resource to help students focus while attending institutions like the one I serve.

H/T to EAB


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