The popular culture tells us that college “kids” are recent high school graduates, living on campus, taking art history, drinking too much on weekends, and (hopefully) graduating four years later.
But these days that narrative of the residential, collegiate experience is way off, says Alexandria Walton Radford, who heads up postsecondary education research at RTI International, a think tank in North Carolina. What we see on movie screens and news sites, she says, is skewed to match the perceptions of the elite: journalists, researchers, policymakers.
Today’s college student is decidedly nontraditional — and has been for a while. “This isn’t a new phenomenon,” Radford says. “We’ve been looking at this since 1996.”