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Today's College Students: A Reader

reviewed by Young M. Kim & Jennifer L. Carter - August 10, 2015

coverTitle: Today's College Students: A Reader
Author(s): Pietro A. Sasso & Joseph L. DeVitis (Eds.)
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433123940, Pages: 424, Year: 2014
Search for book at Amazon.com

The current college population in the United States represents a variety of social, economic, racial, and academic backgrounds. In Today’s College Students, editors Sasso and DeVitis address diversity and equality issues relevant to various student identities and subgroups, within the college population. The book also covers some issues related to college student development by examining the potential impact of select college experiences on student development.

Sasso and DeVitis open the book by sharing narratives of two adults who reflect on their undergraduate experience as positive and life-changing. The book argues that college commencement is the beginning of students’ adult lives and that it is the responsibility of colleges and universities to prepare students to be intellectually capable and socially responsible.

The editors acknowledge that while college access has improved for historically underrepresented groups, these groups still experience observable inequities and challenges, in terms of their college experience and success. Hence, we need a better understanding of, and better service to, these populations. Following the introduction, the book continues with each chapter focusing on a different group or identity that is represented in today’s undergraduate population. Today’s College Students is divided into four main sections: Student Diversity, Student Equality, Student Life, and Student Development.

Chapters share a similar layout covering the existing literature on that group, explaining the gaps in college access, retention, graduation, and sociocultural challenges or barriers met by the group when they pursue college education. Informed by empirical studies and successful practices, authors of the chapters provide higher education academia and professionals with recommendations on how they can best serve these students to improve their chances at success and perceptions of the undergraduate experience as a positive, life-changing event.

In the Student Diversity section, the book covers various types of underrepresented or underserved racial/ethnic groups in higher education. Salinas explains that in 2015 Latina/os will encompass 29% of the U.S. population, yet they are underrepresented both in the college classroom and in the proportion of college graduates. Salinas provides a brief historical context for this population in the general educational system, and then focuses on higher education. Salinas’ chapter also includes an overview of student identity development theory specific to Latina/os along with practical recommendations for how faculty, staff, and administration can best serve this population.

Similar to Salinas’ chapter on Hispanic students, Minthorn, and Shotton focus on Native American students in higher education. They present the general college experiences of Native Americans, misconceptions and stereotypes related to this population, and explain the diversity and heterogeneity within this population. Minthorn and Shotton analyze how Native Americans build community on campus, participate in Greek life, and positively contribute to their communities after college graduation. They also provide practical recommendations based on empirical research on how these students can be equipped and served for success in college. The Student Diversity section also includes chapters on African Americans, Asian Americans, Asian Indians, Middle Easterners, and International Students.

The Student Equality section covers historically disadvantaged or underprivileged student groups and identities such as women, students with disabilities, and LGBTQUIAA. Chapters in this section provide rich analyses on issues of power, privilege, and college access and college success around these student populations. Paone, Malott, and Dwyer posit that, in some situations, microaggressions have taken the place of the explicit racial divide that occurred on many campuses in the past. Microagressions, they argue, are passive, subtle actions that separate one group or several groups from the privileged majority, resulting in inequality to the minority groups. The authors also provide empirical evidence that microaggressions are systemic on today’s campuses and perpetuate inequality in the college experience. In another chapter of this section, Stewart and Colquitt address student equality from a different perspective, that of socioeconomic status. They explain that working-class students are not given the same college access and do not benefit from their college experiences as well as their socioeconomically privileged peers. They argue that higher education should be open to more than well-off families who can buy their children a strong station in life. They cite inconsistencies in the K-12 system as a significant cause to this problem, and argue that higher education system must act as a public good that supports the well-being of all.

The third section of the book provides an overview of student life among today’s college students, including the history of student life, the unique needs of transfer students, and Greek organizations on campus. Passmore’s chapter concentrates on non-traditional students. Passmore states that non-traditional students are the new normal as 73% of undergraduates in 2002 had at least one non-traditional characteristic. These characteristics include having earned a GED, having dependents other than one’s spouse, and working at least 35 hours per week. Passmore gives an overview of the social and financial barriers experienced by these college students, and how their social systems and institutional supports can encourage them to graduate. Other chapters in this section explore the spiritual and religious diversity on campus, college experiences of student-veterans, and challenges of distance learners.

The final section of the book discusses issues related to student development on today’s college campuses, such as student mental health issues, college student drinking, and students’ rights in a post in loco parentis era. Schwitzer and Van Brunt address how mental health issues are impacting today’s college students. They explain that over 10% of the current undergraduate population utilizes campus mental health services, and refer to the Virginia Tech shooting as an example of why these services are so desperately needed for today’s college students. Other chapters in this section also introduce other educationally meaningful college experiences—such as service learning, outdoor adventure experiences, and study abroad, and highlight the positive links between these college experiences and student learning.

Addressing the unique needs, college experiences, and challenges of diverse student identities and subgroups within the current college population, Today’s College Students seeks to answer the questions about how to advance diversity and equal opportunity. While some chapters of the book primarily utilize sources from the 1990s and early 2000s, that could seem out of touch for a book focusing on today’s students in colleges and universities. Most chapters include ample, recent citations of the literature relevant to its topic, facilitating readers’ further exploration. The wide range of college student populations and topics covered by the book, not only inspires further empirical studies on historically underrepresented, underserved, or disadvantaged college populations, but also provides college practitioners with implications on how to foster the spirit of inclusion and community on campus.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 10, 2015
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18059, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 5:15:07 PM

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About the Author
  • Young Kim
    Azusa Pacific University
    E-mail Author
    YOUNG K. KIM Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University. Her research addresses student-faculty interaction, college impact, college student development, and diversity and equity in higher education. She has published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals in the field of higher education, including Research in Higher Education, The Review of Higher Education, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, and Journal of Hispanic Higher Education.
  • Jennifer Carter
    Azusa Pacific University
    E-mail Author
    JENNIFER L. CARTER is a PhD student in Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University and serves as the Registrar at Geneva College. Her research interests include college student spirituality, underprepared college students, and best practices in college teaching.
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