A new kind of student
COLLEGE ACCEPTANCE and rejection letters will be arriving in the mail in the coming days, launching high school seniors into the joyous or consoling embrace of parents. But many prospective college students aren’t watching anxiously for the mail carrier. Instead, they are busy attending to the needs of their own children and workplaces.
The traditional 18- to 22-year-old residing on campus is no longer the norm. Almost three-quarters of undergraduates fall into the “nontraditional’’ category, according to a 2002 National Center for Education Statistics report, meaning they work full time, are financially independent, attend college part time, or didn’t go directly from high school to higher education. For these nontraditional college students, a foreign adventure abroad is more likely to mean deployment to Iraq
As a member of the Boston Police gang unit, Dennis Medina, 39, tries to settle arguments peacefully on his 4 p.m. to midnight shift. On his nights off, he attends classes at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, where he is learning to structure persuasive arguments in his English II writing class. Medina passed briefly through Bunker Hill about 20 years ago after graduating from Jamaica Plain High School. But he admits he spent more time playing ping pong in the student lounge than hitting the books. He dropped out and went to work as a correction officer until joining the Police Department in 2003.
“I’m on the 30-year plan for an associate’s degree,’’ said Medina, a husband and father of three. He’s not alone. More than two-thirds of Bunker Hill students attend part time. And the demand for classes is so great at the 11,700-student campus that administrators now offer three courses that run from midnight to 2:45 a.m.
Medina was chosen from 200 contestants to be one of five nontraditional college students appearing in an upcoming documentary video series called “Take America to College.’’ The series is the creation of Purple States, a media company that specializes in producing and distributing videos that show the connections between citizens and policy challenges. Medina’s self-made video, like others at takeamericatocollege.com, deserves the attention of policy makers and educators who are wrestling with ways to increase graduation rates and make college more affordable. The video makers also hope to sway Congress, where debate is underway on increasing grants and loans for nontraditional students.