The Student Swirl

By Jeff Selingo

College campuses are full of long-held assumptions about how academe works. A perilous one for the future of American higher education is that high-school students pick a college, enroll, and—two or four years later—graduate from the same institution.

That pathway hasn’t been the norm for a majority of college students for quite some time, and the findings from two major projects released in the past few weeks reveal that student behavior in obtaining a college credential is becoming even less predictable: It’s much more of a “swirl” than a straight path (a phenomenon identified by Clifford Adelman in the 1980s). That swirl has important implications for policy makers and college leaders.

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