Aim for Yale, hit a community college

I’ve been catching up on my long “saved-news-article” queue this weekend. A number in higher ed I skimmed and deleted because they either assumed Yale was all of higher education or clearly wrote from an experience almost entirely at places like Yale. It might be a service to remind reporters in summer that as you prepare “back to school” articles, you should remember that comprehensive (regional) public universities and local community colleges are far more prevalent and serve far more students than well-endowed not-for-profit colleges and universities, let alone Ivy Leagues. Yes, there are still reporters and faculty who forget this basic fact. If you’re not among them, pat yourself on the back and Remind your colleagues. Go ahead and brag; we need folks to evangelize the truth that elite institutions educate a small subset of Americans.

And even within a particular niche, there are sub-niches. In community colleges, just to pick an example, there is the giant Miami-Dade College, which offers some applied bachelors programs along with two-year degrees and vocational programs to almost 150,000 students. There is Florida Keys Community College, serving 2,000. Most community colleges use adjunct faculty for a huge chunk of teaching, but near my new home, there’s Rio Salado College, which teaches more than 50,000 with 23 faculty (really, program coordinators); there are more staff at the college’s public radio station than there are full-time employees called faculty.

So if you’re tempted to slam the idle ways of today’s youth, please don’t pick an elite private institution, or at least make clear you’re targeting a tiny segment.

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