In his “Choosing a College 3” comment, Dean was spot on in playing up the “real world” juice that’s often present at community colleges.
My teaching career has evolved to where I mostly teach at the graduate level. I like it a lot in large part because the students—many of whom are parents, retired military, former business people—bring so much to the table. The lack of “nontraditional” students is definitely an opportunity cost of attending a highly selective liberal arts college.
In simplest terms, Dean was describing the value of “age diversity,” and by extension, “life experience diversity.”
In my experience, even the most happy undergraduate students sometimes grow weary of spending nearly all of their time with people their age.
Of course there are ways for traditional undergrads to break out of their narrow age/life experience band. One simple inexpensive way to broaden one’s worldview is to read a daily newspaper. I could be wrong, but my sense is VERY few undergrads do that. Watching Jon Stewart doesn’t count.
Here are three other ways to broaden and deepen one’s college experience.
• do an internship or two in the community
• instead of joining a campus-based religious group, commit to a religious community off-campus
• study abroad