Demographics of Education in the United States

Changing Demographics in College

United States has over the years been experiencing population changes in higher education sector especially in college enrollment. Evidently, when certain changes in education system are experienced, the system often experience structural changes which may since costly to many. The best educational system should identify students’ needs and take a proactive approach in understanding their background, the number of students in a classroom, and what classes needs to be taught. Colleges across the nation need to be prepared to meet the needs of both their students and the society. Some of the steps that will be required to accomplish these goals will require the administration to know the exact developmental education classes and subjects needed in every mainstream. Faculty departments should play their part by building in-depth proper planning and higher hire qualified staff to cater for community educational needs.

Population Trend

Recent research in college enrollment in the United States has reveals an increase in student college enrolment in the past few years. For example, in 1972, 49% of high school graduates entered college and by 1997 the rate increased to 67%. It should however be noted that the current rates in college enrolment varies across states but trend stays above 62% and below 69% (Summary of Conference, 2008, p.10).

College Board organized in 2005 that comprised of enrollment management professionals, researchers, faculty, demographers and policy projected college was aimed at discussing college attendance for the next 15 years since demographics were shifting and there was need for new projects to cater for future needs. On the meeting’s agenda the implications of the population shift and they sought to correct this by addressing areas of concern in higher education (Summary of Conference, 2005).

During the conference, high school data was analyzed to determine graduation rate estimates (national and state data were available), and criteria were developed to determine what percentage of the graduating population would attend college. This information was gathered across all US colleges which would later be used for structuring public policy based on the data and projections collected. The Issues reviewed included;

  • Non-US students attending college in the United States. The data therefore data included Immigration patterns across all colleges in the United States
  • Migration of students from state to state
  • Racial/ethnic makeup of student population
  • Overall demographics changes with specific reference to minorities groups
  • Education gaps among racial/ethnic groups (Summary of Conference, 2005).

When analyzing data, it is important to consider the number of students graduating high school and do not make it to higher college enrollment. For more conclusive analysis, we base our statistics specifically in the Arizona area. Summary of Conference (2008, p.10) statistics reveals that about 75% Hispanic population are more likely to enroll in a community college or will not enroll in higher education at all. Majority of this population is dominated by women majority making up to up 60% of postsecondary college enrollment while the minority represents men. Next on the agendas question was why college enrollment statistics represented majority of men than women. Higher education for this case was required to determine why 36% of African American women were enrolled in college while only 26% of African American men were college students. The committee considered these issues in determining future needs in higher education.

Some of the changes that colleges are likely to encounter due to the changing demographics will include:

  • Some colleges will expand enrollment to meet demand, depending on location
  • Some colleges will see few students as enrollment declines due to graduation rates, depending on location
  • Some colleges will accept underprepared students
  • College recruitment methods should be evaluated to target populations
  • Racial and ethnic populations on campuses will change as more minorities are offered the opportunity to obtain a formal education

With these changes and with the at-risk students given priority, each college curriculums and budgets must be evaluated. Faculty may need additional professional training and budgets may need to be adjusted (Summary of Conference, 2005).

The Underprepared Student

Underprepared students often referred to us “risks-groups” are the those un-academically prepared students who enroll in college.The colleges enrolling these students are often at risk since the students are more likely to withdraw from classes or even fail classes since they are not intellectually equipped for college-level work. Colleges in this case struggle with the issue of how to advance the underprepared student population into college-level classes successfully. Statistics however reveal that the levels of underprepared students enrolled in two-year and four-year colleges and across the curriculum (NACADA, 2005, online).

Traditional Student

The underprepared student enrolling in a four-year university is typically much different from a student enrolling in a two-year college. The students who move directly from high school to college are considered traditional students. Four-year universities do not have an open-door policy; instead, there is usually an application process which the student must follow in order to be accepted to the school. However, the student may be underprepared for college-level classes offered at the school of choice, subsequently requiring some developmental classes in order to attend the school (NACADA, 2005, online).

Non-traditional Student

Non-traditional Student refers to adults who are reentering higher education after being out of school for long periods. These students for this case many need developmental education in order to take college-level classes and the college undertaking this students often inherits the burdens. Some of the reasons why non-traditional student may be considering re- schooling would be to either earn higher educational status per their job requirements, or to acquire learning experiences in order to meet their personal needs and grow as a person (NACADA, 2005, online).

In order to assist the overwhelming numbers of at-risk students, colleges must implement strong academic advising program, provide structures that promotes success of the students such as workshops and developmental classes and promote resiliency in the student. These strategies are considered crucial for detainment and success of these students. Good academic tools will help the students overcome obstacles that have created a negative view of learning in the past (NACADA, 2005, online).

There are also findings that report that non-traditional students make up a huge population of the overall student population. The administration in this case should therefore provide proper guidance to these students by foreseeing the established of programs that assist developmental students while at colleges. Often, the students only need to be informed of such opportunities.

Developmental Education Programs

Developmental education is a structured that assists students in areas where they prove to be weak or below college-level admission standards. Developmental education offers a variety of services such as psychological support services and academic services. Services often associated with developmental education programs include placement, tutoring, orientation, advising, counseling, peer support, early intervention programs, study skills training, learning assistance centers, UMKC, support groups, freshman seminars and learning communities. The developmental education options provide underprepared students the opportunity to succeed in college; without such services an underprepared student would not perform as well or perhaps would not be allowed into higher-education (Shields, 2005).

Learning Communities

Colleges and universities across the United States require students to be admitted as freshman. As a college entry requirement, the student may be required to write a freshman composition or the other writing-intensive courses as part of the selection process. The underprepared students are typically required to enter a developmental program such as a basic writing course. Fear of failure is often present during the freshman period and this can only be overcome by good support system in place (Malnarich, 2003). Since many students have never experienced success in a traditional learning environment, some have turned to learning communities for their education and support.

Learning communities for developmental students, like UMKC, should be structured so that the community concentrates on the at-risk population. For example, a learning community should be considered when 30% or more students drop a specific class within the first month of a session or for courses in which 50% or more earn a low grade. Patterns should be examined to determine where the need exists within the institution; for some educational institutions the learning community would consist of ESL students, underprepared students, or students who take night classes (Malnarich, 2005).

Characteristics; A learning community consists of a learning culture in which everyone is involved in a collective effort of understanding. Bielaczyc and Collins (1999) mentions the four characteristics of such a culture to include:

  1. diversity of expertise among its members, who are valued for their contributions and given support to develop,
  2. a shared objective of continually advancing the collective knowledge and skills,
  3. an emphasis on learning how to learn,
  4. and mechanisms for sharing what is learned.

Methods; According to Bielaczyc and Collins (1999), major methods within the learning community theory include:

  • Community growth: Overall goal is to expand the community’s knowledge and skills
  • Emergent goals: Goals should be co-constructed with the students and emerge from their activities
  • Articulation of goals: Teacher and students must articulate their goals and criteria for judging success
  • Metacognition: The community should be reminded of its goals and should be able to measure their progress. It should also reflect back on what was learned and the processes employed to achieve specific tasks.
  • Beyond the bounds: The community should try to go beyond the knowledge in the community and seek out new approaches and ideas
  • Respect for others: Students need to learn respect for other students’ contributions and differences. Student should be taught to clearly articulate and enforce the rules for respect amongst themselves
  • Failure-safe: The community should accept failures and not try to assess blame. There must be a sense that failure is O.K. students should however be made to recognize that taking risks fosters learning and should be approached with dignity
  • Structural dependence: The community should be organized such that students are dependent on other students. Structural dependence fosters respect for others and boost self-esteem within the learning environment.
  • Depth over breadth: Students should have sufficient time to investigate topics in enough depth to gain real expertise on important issues and generative ideas on their own.
  • Diverse expertise: Students should develop the areas in which they are most interested and capable, with the responsibility to share their expertise with the community so that they not only learn by doing, but also learn from other students.
  • Multiple ways to participate: Students should have a range of activities such as formulating questions, gathering knowledge and sharing knowledge. The activities should also incorporate a number of roles that will encourage active participation such as researcher, expert, and moderator.
  • Sharing: There should be a mechanism for sharing individuals’ knowledge throughout the community, so that every student can give and receive knowledge.
  • Negotiation: Ideas are improved by an argumentation process based on logic and evidence, and there should be modeling and coaching of self esteem.
  • Quality of products: The quality of the knowledge and products should be valued by individuals, the community, and outsiders, based on community standards and the college curriculum.

Supplementary Instructions

Supplementary Instructions (SI) was introduced at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in 1973 to promote student involvement and ownership of the learning process. SI is a program designed to assist students of various academic fields by providing study sessions with peers. The program is often administered by a UMKC Leader (SI Leader) at no costs. The SI Leader in this case is a trained undergraduate student who has performed well in a prior class and therefore equipped with knowledge to assists his fellow students (UMKC, 2010, online).

SI Leaders are paid to attend the class regularly as if they were a student; they take notes and participate in class. The SI leader meets with the group of students who volunteer to participate in the program on a regular basis. They discuss class activities, compare notes, organize material and talk about test questions while striving to prepare the students for overall success. The SI Leader promotes critical thinking by facilitating discussion around the topic (UMKC, 2010, online).

Projected Staffing Needs

Darla J. Shields from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania expressed concerns over developmental education since some states had eliminated developmental education in their four-year colleges. Shields expressed her criticisms of the current developmental education system and the benefits of the same programs and presented strategies to promote the existence of developmental education.

Recently, the number of developmental classes offered has decreased while the student population in need of developmental classes has increased. Some schools fear that they will be labeled as substandard if they choose to offer developmental classes because such classes could be considered high school classes and not college-level classes. Shields believes that developmental education is endangered due to budget cuts and high standards of accountability (Shields, 2005).

As the student population increases, college education is shifting away from the traditional developmental classes. In order stay within budget, more educational institutions are relying on part-time faculty to teach developmental courses. To support this analysis (Anderson, 2002) statistics reported an increase in part-time staff by 79% between 1981 and 1999. The dynamic change in higher education has meant that non-traditional teachers will not be available.

It’s often argued that educational institutions that hire part-time teachers as compared to full-time, tenured-track professors are likely to cut on costs since it costs less to hire part-time faculty than it for full-time ones and class sizes can be kept at minimal levels. Another benefit is that colleges can afford to employ professionals such as attorneys, insurance, and architects in specialty classes hence exposing the students to a real-world view. Lastly, colleges that have the ability to ramp up staff or eliminate positions in times of emergencies can easily do so without incurring huge costs.

Some of challenges encountered by part-time faculty include low productivity and satisfaction levels. For example, the part-time, non-tenured faculty produces fewer publications compared to full time faculties. In many cases, full-time tenured faculty are paid to research, whereas part-time faculty are not because the time is not available for such work, especially if the teacher has a full-time job in addition to his/her teaching obligation (Anderson, 2002). The pay for the part-time faculty is lower, and they typically are not offered benefits. Although there may exist inequalities, Anderson (2002) report illustrated that job satisfaction of both faculties showed 90% in satisfaction levels in their jobs.

Colleges across the United States are often faced with questions on how to serve their students. Some of the questions include; what is the correct ratio of tenured versus non-tenured tract faculty, full-time verses part-time faculty? Budgets often dictate these ratios; but if budgets were not the issue, what would the ratio be? To answer these questions, all the faculty members including tenured, non-tenured, full-time and part-time and UMKC Leaders should work together to meet both the student’s and community’s goals while providing their students with the best educational experience there is.


Because demographics are rapidly changing higher education must be proactive in order to meet the needs of their students and their communities. Developmental education faculty should work closely with academic advising to ensure that the at-risk students are given the appropriated tools to succeed. Learning communities and UMKC are tools that promote active participation from the student which often results in the student owning their educational journey. All options should be exploited with an open mind while keeping the focus on student success. The best educational system should well identify with students’ needs in terms of their background, ethnicities and how the underprepared student could be academically prepared to fit into the college curriculum. Part-time faculty with low compensation package in terms of salary and research projects should well compensated to eliminate the risks low productivity.


Anderson, E. L. (2002). The new professoriate: Characteristics, contributions, and compensation. American Council on Education Center for Policy Analysis.

Arendale, D. (1994). Understanding the UMKC (SI) model. University of Missouri: Kansas City, MO. Web.

Bielaczyc, K. & Collins, A. (1999). Learning communities in classrooms: A reconceptualization of educational practice. C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.). Instructional Design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, Vol. 2. (pp. 269-292). New Jersey: Erlbaum. Web. 

Malnarich, G., Dusenberry, P., Sloan, B., Swinton, J., & van Slyck, P. (2003). The pedagogy of possibilities: Developmental education, college-level studies, and learning communities. National Learning Communities Project Monograph Series 16. Web.

NACADA (2005). Advising academically underprepared students. Web.

Shields, D. (2005). Developmental education: Criticisms, benefits and survival strategies. Research & Teaching in Developmental Education, 22(1), 43-51.

University of Missouri, Kansas City (2010). The International Center for Supplementary Instructions : Overview of Supplementary Instructions. Web.

Summary of Conference. (2005). Summary of Conference of demographic changes on higher education. College Board, pp.1-20. Web.

IES National Center for Education Statistics. (2008). The Condition of Education. Web.

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