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Artisanal U.: The Radical Potential of College Without the Classroom

From our winter issue, GOOD 025: The Next Big Thing


Joyce Alcantara grew up in Rhode Island with her mom, three sisters, two nieces, and a cousin. Her dad, incarcerated in Florida, isn’t really a part of her life. Alcantara had trouble with classes her senior year in high school and almost dropped out; her saving grace was a strong interest in social work and clinical psychology, fostered by an internship at a family services drop-in center. This fall, she started her freshman year at Southern New Hampshire University as part of a new program called College Unbound. “I have made the best with what I have. If not for the struggles, if not for the hardship, I would not be as strong as I am today,” she wrote in her application. But even with all she has going for her, even after beating the odds just to get her high school diploma, a student like Alcantara, the first in her family to go to college, has only an 11 percent chance of graduating.

Dennis Littky thinks that’s not good enough. “An 89 percent dropout rate? That’s absurd. Typically we blame the students, but it may not be all the students’ fault— it may be the colleges’ fault,” he says. “Colleges have to be student-ready rather than students just being college-ready.”

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