In Degrees of Difficulty, USA Today looks at unconventional college students — the ones who aren’t 18- to 22-year-olds living in a dorm and going to college full-time on their parents’ dime (and dollars). The unconventional is now the norm.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, about half of today’s students are financially independent; 49% are enrolled part-time; 38% work full time; 27% have dependents of their own. Almost half — 12 million — attend two-year community colleges rather than four-year schools.
And most students who start college don’t finish. Only 56% of students at four-year colleges complete a degree within six years, and just 20% of first-time students at public community colleges get a degree or certificate within three years.
The project includes video profiles of five students:
• Dennis Medina, a police officer and a night student at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston;
• Kathryn McCormick, a single mom who waitresses 35 hours a week and is enrolled at Valencia Community College in Orlando
• Shane Burrows, who works full-time as a sales assistant while studying at Sierra Community College in Rocklin, Calif.;
• Brandon Krapf, an Iraq war veteran studying at American University in Washington, D.C.;
• Charneé Ball, a Navy veteran, also at Valencia Community College in Orlando.
Only one quarter of college students fit the Joe College and Betty Coed model.