Misrepresentation of College Students: an Analysis of Thomas R. Wolanin’s Editorial “Joe and Jane Go to College”

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For a majority of high school students, after graduation the next step usually is to continue their education by attending college. According to Thomas R. Wolanin, a senior associate at the Institute for High Education Policy, a vast majority of those students and their families will probably be discouraged to do so because of the portrayal of college life and its expenses created by mass media. In his editorial “Joe and Jane Go to College: Today’s College Student is Not Who You Think”, Wolanin argues that college students portrayed in the media are a misrepresentation of the vast majority of college students. He states that the “reality of students in American higher education is quite different”(1) from what is usually displayed by mass media. And the only reason why he brings this to America’s attention is because he believes their misrepresentation has created “some serious and unfortunate public consequences”(2).

Wolanin argues that the ‘typical’ college student that the media portrays is only a reflection of their own experience or their high expectations of it. He sees the people working in mass media as part of the high society. And being in high society, he explains, “for America’s economic, social, and political elite, the reality of college is, in fact, much closer to the ‘traditional’ picture”(3). By saying that media is part of America’s elite society and what they portray of college is what America’s higher society has had or can afford, Wolanin set the basis of his argument. Knowing that his audience is of the general population of blue-collar workers. His main evidence is in his statistical data that breaks down the percentages of traditional student versus nontraditional. There are as much as seventy-five percent of undergraduate students are nontraditional. The percentage of the nontraditional student is high because of family matter, by saying that because of the high pay of tuition for college or university that make those student cannot go...
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