Monday, December 21, 2009

How is “change” affecting our students? Oh, in just a few ways!

Come to think of it, this question would make a great brainstorming activity! I was recently asked this question by a staff member at my publisher, Bedford/St. Martins: “How is change affecting today’s college students.” This is what I told her.

1. Students are incurring more debt to attend college (but taking on debt correlates with degree attainment = better living through debt)

2. More and more students are having college plans disrupted by change in parents income status due to recession

3. Working more hours while attending college

4. Part-time jobs even harder to find due to recession

5. Stress levels increasing for students and families

6. Students use of counseling services at an all time high

7. More students than ever are attending more than one college to attain a BA degree (over 60%). The transfer phenomenon is now normative.

8. More and more students are “swirling” meaning they simultaneously attend more than one institution

9. The demand for higher ed has never been greater (due to the recession—the old jobs without college training are gone, gone, gone)

10. Much greater competition to get into the majors/fields of choice: e.g. health care fields

11. Biggest growth “change” area of enrollment patterns is dramatic increases in community college and proprietary school enrollments

12. Median age of students attending open admissions institutions is plummeting

13. More and more students can no longer afford the residential college experience; so biggest gains in enrollment are in commuter student populations.

14. Students know that employer recruitment visits to campus career centers are down, down, down.

15. Students know that the government is hiring so public service jobs are more attractive than ever; also these are the only jobs left in America with defined benefit pension plans

16. Students know it is going to take a long time for the job market to improve so many are planning to pile on more debt and just go straight to graduate school

17. Other students are planning to get off the rat race, chill out, and delay entry into full adulthood

18. The military is still the employer of last resort but standards even for it are now more competitive, except for the infantry

19. More and more “veterans” will be starting or returning to college

20. Growth rates will all be dominated by formerly “minority” status students

So, have students had enough change lately? You bet. No wonder some of them do things to try to blow this off, or ignore it. But most can’t even afford to do that. What would be on your list, missing from mine?

-John Gardner

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