The Demographic and Student Environment
Demographic changes occurring across the United States, the Midwest, and Ohio may have a substantial impact upon both the potential student population and the overall environment in which the University functions.
The U. S. Census projects that the current population of the United States is approximately 281 million. It will rise to 288 million in 2005, 300 million in 2010, and 338 million in 2025. Of the more than 50 million who will be added to our national population in the next few decades, about 60% will result from more births than deaths and about 40% from immigration. Immigrants and their children will account for more than one-half of our population growth.
While the population growth rate for the entire United States for the period April 2000 to July 2005 was 5.3%, it was less than 1% for Ohio during the same period.
A continued shift is expected from the older urban centers of the Northeast and Midwest to the cities of the Sunbelt, particularly in California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona. The BGSU Center for Family and Demographic Research also notes a geographic shift within Ohio. The south and central parts of the state are expected to grow more rapidly than others over the next several years. The seven counties (Wood, Lucas, Cuyahoga, Erie, Lorain, Franklin, and Huron) in Ohio that together supply about one-half of current BGSU students are expected to increase only very slightly.
In a series of articles concerning the possible future of American higher education in 2015 in the November 25, 2005 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education , an article on this topic presented a scenario where population decreases in the Northeast and Midwest, especially among those of traditional college, leads to a lower tax base and less political support for higher education, and a downward spiral of decreasing enrollment and resources, greater competition, and growing mediocrity.
As shown in the table below, the United States population will show significant increases in racial and ethnic diversity in the coming years. The Hispanic population nationally will increase most rapidly and will be the largest minority group by 2005. European-Americans will be a minority in the under-eighteen population by 2030 and in the entire U. S. population by 2050. Growth in the Asian-American population also has implications for higher education; 42% of Asian-Americans have college degrees as compared with 25% for European-Americans, 13% for African-Americans, and 10% for Latinos.
Population Trends by Race/Ethnicity in the United States
Ohio’s racial and ethnic diversity is also expected to increase over the next fifteen years, but not at as great a rate as nationally:
Population Trends by Race/Ethnicity in Ohio
Falling birth rates and increasing life expectancy will lead to changes in the age profile of the national and state population. Across the United States median age will increase from 35 now to 38 in 2020 and from 34 to 37 in Ohio. U.S. life expectancy is now 79 for baby girls and 73 for baby boys. It will increase to 81 for girls and 75 for boys by 2020. On the Horizon suggests that older persons are a great potential source of both students as well as faculty and staff. Adult education enrollments have grown substantially in the last few years, as institutions both serve a growing need and and seek ways to expand revenue, according to an article in the January 20, 2006 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education .
|Population Trends by Age Range in the United States|
Population Trends by Age Range in Ohio
The number of eighteen to twenty-four year-olds in Ohio is expected to remain basically unchanged. The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s 1998 projections of high school graduates (printed publication maintained in the Office of Institutional Research) indicates a near 2% increase (from 1997-98) in five years, a 5% increase in ten years, and a near 2% decrease in 14 years.
Between now and 2010, the percentage of households nationally comprised of married couples with children below age 18 will decrease from 25% to 20%. Households consisting of people who live alone will rise from 25% to 27%. On the Horizon points out that the number of families without children now outnumbers the number of families with children. Increasing numbers of households are now headed by women. The gap between the richest and poorest families in the United States and also in Ohio is expected to be maintained in the foreseeable future; a recent USA Today article reports that the average income of the top fifth of families with children in the United States is $117,499 compared to $9,254 for the bottom fifth of families with children (a 12.7 to 1 ratio). In Ohio the figures are $111,894 and $9,346 (a 12.0 to 1 ratio). Further information on the "pulling apart" of America’s middle class is found in On the Horizon. The income gap is (and increasingly will be) primarily attributable to education levels and Ohio’s college participation rate continues to lag behind the national average; the Ohio Board of Regents reports that 51% of Ohio high school graduates as compared with 58% of high school graduates nationally went onto some form of higher education in 1994.
A new report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, " As America Becomes More Diverse: The Impact of State Higher Education Inequality ," examines demographic projections an increase in persons of color and a decrease in Caucasians in the United States, reviews problems in educational attainment of minority groups, and concludes that the education and income levels of American workers will decline over the next 15 years if states do not do more to improve the number of college graduates from minority groups.
A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute shows that the income gap between the Nation's highest and lowest income families has increased substantially. In Ohio, the incomes of the richest 20% of families grew 58% between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, while the incomes of the poorest 20% grew only 21%. Families in the top 5% of the income distribution now earn ten times more than those in the bottom 20%.
In a series of articles concerning the possible future of American higher education in 2015 in the November 25, 2005 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education , an article on American higher education, global awareness, and cultural competency presented the following scenario: fear and draconian government restrictions concerning homeland security lead to fewer domestic students studying abroad and fewer foreign students studying in America, resulting in the creeping international isolation of American institutions and lesser understanding of other cultures on the part of American students.
The Population Reference Bureau’s February 2001 volume of its Reports on America series, The Career Quandary , highlights a profound transformation taking place in work and family life in the United States. Most middle-age adults are employed, but would like to work less, while most older adults (60s and 70s) are unemployed, but would like to remain productively engaged. Today’s work force is more diverse and older than ever; the beginning of the baby-boom generation reaches age 55 in 2001. Most working husbands have working wives, most American children have working mothers, and nearly half of the work force is not female. Despite these trends, most careers are based upon a conventional male breadwinner template of lock-step, full-time employment culminating in one-time retirement. Employment practices are not keeping pace with changes in an aging and increasingly female workforce and one with increasing family responsibilities on both ends. Movement to a more global, information-based economy makes traditional career path less likely. The old employment contract tradition of trading job security for worker longevity is disappearing. While increasing numbers of American workers are retiring in their late 50s or early 60s, many then move on to other careers. These trends suggest the need for employers to grapple with changes in outdated career templates and for educational institutions the needs for lifelong learning and diverse educational delivery systems.
Projections of the number of high school graduates through 2018, which were released by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education , along with the College Board and ACT Inc. and which appeared in an article in the February 6, 2004 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education , reveal a steady rise in the number of high school graduates nationally, reaching a peak of 3.2 million in 2008-9. The projections show a major shift in the racial profile of new high-school graduates over the next decade, with the number of Hispanic students surging and the number of white graduates continuing to decline. The projections are very different in Northeastern and Midwestern states such as Ohio, where the number of high school graduates will not vary greatly from current levels and diversity will increase much less rapidly.
The UCLA Higher Education Research Institute ’s Freshman Survey results show a disturbing trend towards academic disengagement among college freshmen; increasing percentages of freshmen report being bored in class and oversleeping and missing classes during their senior year in high school. The amount of homework and studying per week seems to be decreasing. Increased employment may account for at least part of this trend. Freshmen report less frequency of beer drinking during their senior year in high school, but increasing trends towards smoking.
An article by Art Levine and Jeanette Cureton in the March-April 1998 edition of About Campus highlights the characteristics of today’s college students and their implications. While some of the demographics they describe are not characteristic of current BGSU students, they may point to future trends. They note that by 1994, 44% of all American college students were over age 25, 54% were employed, 55% were female, and 43% were attending college part-time. The article states that "Fewer than one in six of all current undergraduates fits the traditional stereotype of American college students: eighteen to twenty-two years of age, attending full-time, and living on campus" (p. 5). They discuss the following implications:
As a consequence, older, part-time, and working students, especially those with children, want a different type of relationship with their colleges, they tell us, from the one that undergraduates have historically had. They prefer relationships like those they already enjoy with their bank, their telephone company, and their supermarket.
These students want their colleges nearby and operating at the hours most useful to them – preferably around the clock. They want accessible parking (in the classroom would not be at all bad), no lines, and a polite, helpful, and efficient staff. Increasingly, students are bringing to higher education exactly the same consumer expectations they have for every other commercial enterprise they deal with. Their focus is on convenience, quality, service, and cost. (p. 5)
Levine and Cureton also offer some observations about the social-psychological aspects of contemporary college student life:
Students are coming to college today feeling overwhelmed and more damaged than students who came in previous years. Sixty percent of chief student affairs officers report that undergraduates are using psychological counseling services in record numbers and for longer periods of time than in the past. Eating disorders are up at 58% of the institutions surveyed. Classroom disruption has increased at 44 percent of colleges, drug abuse at 42 percent, alcohol abuse at 35 percent. Gambling has grown at 25 percent of the institutions, and suicide attempts have risen at 23 percent. One dean of students concluded, "Students expect the community to respond to their needs, to make ‘right’ their personal problems and those of society at large." . . .
This situation has resulted in a generation that is often too busy or too tired to have a social life. It has produced students who fear intimacy in relationships; withdrawal is easier and less dangerous than engagement. It has led to undergraduates who want things to be different; escaping from campus physically and from life via a bottle are both popular. . . .
Today there is probably a greater diversity of on-campus activities available than ever before, but each activity, in the words of one dean, "appeals to smaller pockets of students." This is a consequence of student organizational mitosis and the multiplication of divisions between undergraduates. Deans of students regularly tell us, "More people are doing things individually and in separate groups than campus wide." In the main, students are leaving campus to have fun. At more than half of the colleges we visited (52 percent), students didn’t bother to mention a specific activity or locale when they talked about what they did for fun; they said they just "go off campus." . . . (p. 7)
Levine and Cureton conclude their About Campus article by focusing upon academics. They note increased need for developmental education across all sectors of American higher education. They cite research from the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute which shows that fewer than forty percent of students nationally graduate in four years. Part-time attendance coupled with employment, the need for developmental education, increasing college costs, and poor class availability are cited as possible reasons for lengthened time-to-degree. They also discuss research from the University of Missouri-Columbia concerning the growing gap between the way that students learn and the way that faculty teach. While the majority of today’s undergraduates "learn best in a situation characterized by direct, concrete experience, moderate-to-high degrees of structure, and a linear approach to learning," the majority of faculty "prefer the global to the particular, are stimulated by the realm of concepts, ideas, and abstractions, and assume that students, like themselves, need a high degree of autonomy in their work." Levine and Cureton conclude that "This mismatch may cause faculty to think that every year students are less well prepared, and students to think that their classes are incomprehensible." (p. 8)
An article in the December 6, 2002 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education focuses on the issue of limited time spent studying by college students. While many institutions suggest that students spend two hours studying for each hour spent in the classroom (meaning 25 to 30 hours per week for most full-time students), results of the National Survey of Student Engagement reveal that only about 12% of students study this much and that the average hours per spent studying may be closer to about 10 hours per week. NSSE results also reveal that seniors spend less time studying than freshmen. The article proceeds to note that the amount of time spent studying may not be as important as how students study--few college students have learned how to develop effective study skills. College students may be studying less now than they once did because they are studying less during high school and still often earning good grades; students then feel entitled to good grades if they do the same amount of work in college. The article goes on to suggest ways that institutions can foster good study habits: require study skills or orientation courses, emphasize the importance of academics to prospective students, better reward faculty for good teaching and interaction with undergraduates, provide more financial aid to encourage students to work fewer hours, create learning communities, and take steps to curb grade inflation.
A June 12, 1998 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that campuses are increasing their efforts to combat alcohol abuse following a national string of alcohol-related deaths and clashes with police. A study carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health finds that while more college students are abstaining from alcohol than was the case five years ago, those who do drink are doing so more heavily and with more serious consequences, such as missing classes and driving while intoxicated. Also, the smoking rate at four-year colleges rose 28% between 1993 and 1997, as reported in the November 18, 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It grew faster at public colleges and universities.
The majority of current undergraduates (59%) have attended more than one institution either through transfer or concurrent enrollment, according to the July 2005 edition of Trends in Higher Education published by the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). Enrollment management experts have described “swirling” as an increasingly common enrollment behavior that involves students attending multiple institutions in order to minimize cost and maximize convenience. Distance learning opportunities have further increased this practice.
A number of national and state level public policy experts are examining the issue of college graduation rates. Nationally, the six-year baccalaureate graduation rate has remained at 54% for some time. William Bowen, former president of Princeton and current president of the Mellon Foundation , has announced a new research effort aimed and learning more about why some students graduate and other do not, even at similar institutions.
The National Center for Educational Statistics predicts that only 41% of undergraduates nationally will be male by 2010. This trend is even stronger at institutions whose curricula are particularly favored by female students (e.g., teacher education). The number of young men going from high school to college has remained at about 61% since 1968, but the percentage of young women enrolling increases every year, reaching 72% in 2004. Reasons why males are under-enrolling may include frustration with their K-12 educational experience (see information from the Center for Men and Young Men at Hardard Medical School ), better paying entry-level employment opportunities for men than those traditionally available to women (e.g., construction), and perhaps less understanding by men than women of the need for higher education in the human capital economy (see much more information on this topic in Postsecondary Opportunity ). The feminization of undergraduates has implications for curricula, residence life, athletics, and campus security.
Coomes and Debard (Eds.), in their 2004 book Serving the Millennial Generation, describe the characteristics of Millennial students and their implications for learning, administrative policy, and interactions with faculty and staff (who are largely members of the “Boomer” and “Gen-X” generations). Millennial students (those born approximately between 1982 and 2002)
- as a group, are the largest, most diverse, wealthiest, and most educationally ambitious generation in the Nation’s history
- have grown up in increasingly homogenous communities
- have been influenced by historical events such as the O. J. Simpson trial; the Oklahoma City bombing; the death of Princess Diana; the Columbine shootings; 9-11; and the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush presidencies, and popular culture images such as Carmen Sandiego, the Olsen Twins, Harry Potter, “Road Rules,” “Real World,” The Simpsons, The Osbornes, NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Alanis Morisette, the Spice Girls, Eminem, Lauryn Hill, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, Titanic, the Matrix, Mulan, the Williams sisters, Mia Hamm, Cosmo Girl, Seventeen, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” CDs, MP3s, cell phones, IM, and Nintendo
- are optimistic
- have experienced and expect a high degree of academic achievement
- prefer to work in teams rather than individually
- desire to become involved
- value authority rather than to be alienated from it
- have experienced and expect a high degree of structure (and perhaps pressure) in their lives
- are civic-minded
- have experienced and expect a high degree of protection, and thus have come of age amidst what has been termed the New Puritanism (music warning labels, software blockers, the V-chip, bans on smoking, pervasive anti-drug and alcohol education, and “safer sex”)
- have grown up in a society that is increasingly politically polarized and where politics are increasingly divisive
- are interested in religion and spirituality
- are extremely comfortable and familiar with information technology
- have experienced and expect being considered special
- have experienced and may expect a high degree of parental involvement in their lives
- have experienced and expect involvement in service learning activities
SCUP’s Trends in Higher Education (July 2005, p. 7) offers the following information about student learning: Adolescents, including college students, have different bio-cycles than children and adults. They experience a second alert cycle in the late evening and don’t experience waking alertness until mid-morning. Some institutions are finally realizing that 8 AM classes are not an optimal time for student learning.
A recent college graduate has articulated some Commandments for Teaching the Net Generation , that extol faculty members to be engaging, available, and relevant; to view teaching and learning as a two-way process; and to utilize technology in educationally appropriate ways. She states that students still crave faculty with expertise and enthusiasm, that they want professors who demonstrate expertise and the ability to engage students, that they want to get to know their faculty members, and that they want to be challenged.
In an attempt to better understand the experiences and behaviors of contemporary American undergraduate students, a cultural anthropology professor with the pseudonym of Rebekah Nathan enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student and lived in a residence hall at a public university where she works. The results of her research are contained in the book My Freshman Year. She provides an intriguing, richly detailed look at student life, including students' coping with time constraints (particularly related to the fact that so many of them are employed), their difficulty keeping up with assignments, academic dishonesty, concern about careers, difficulty in getting to know students unlike themselves, striving for "fun," and difficulty in building community in the "over-optioned" university.