As I sit back in my comfortable office chair and ponder the Big Picture of “college" these days, two Mt. Everest-sized issues bubble up to the top:
1. Why does college cost so much?
2. Do you really need a college education to be happy and successful in life?
Speaking of mountains, there are mountains of data written about both of these issues. I won't get into a detailed series of references about what that information says or who's saying it. However, I would like to give you my take, for what it's worth, on these and maybe a few other issues.
A while back, I noted a few additional likes and dislikes to my 2008 lists. To recap those, here a brief summary:
– Meeting new people. I came from a small, cloistered community dominated by blue-collar workers. Penn State greatly expanded my formerly limited culturally diverse horizons. I met the sons and daughters of wealthy professionals and some wildly talented artistic types …
– Being part of a varsity sports team. Tennis was my sport. Before transferring to Penn State after my military service, I was a starter for a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. I recall the thrill of providing the winning point in a team match against our prime rival …
– Homecoming weekends. The one I remember most could have been the model for every homecoming. The weather was perfect: cool autumn temps, a deep blue, sunny sky, and a dream date on my arm …
– Academic pressure. Yes, Virginia, I realize that we go to college to learn, and part of the leaning process demands academic accountability, ergo testing and project deadlines. Now, believe it or not, I was a responsible student who (mostly) tried to do my best work in (most of) my classes …
– Questionable food. Believe it or not, the gentleman in charge of food service at my little liberal arts school had a last name of “Bloodgood." Yuck. Just thinking about that now makes me laugh. The food, though, was no laughing matter. It sucked …
If you would like to read beyond the ellipses, you may do so here.
Dislikes may well outweigh likes when it comes to reviewing higher education. Naturally, we dislike what seems like a lifetime of debt, thanks to student loans. We may also dislike working as a truck driver after spending a fortune on at least four years of a philosophy major.
As part of my pondering about all things college, I found a cool article entitled 13 Things Students Love to Hate About College. Before I disperse my latest pontifications, let's take a quick look at some of these loved hates, followed by snippet of text.
– College costs too much. [We've heard that before, huh?] “… Consider cheaper alternatives, such as community colleges or, in some cases, summer school …"
– My professor is unbelievably boring. “… Drop the course and find another one with a better professor. Every college has its duds …"
– I hate writing papers. “… Think about a paper as simple communication. Can you think up five reasons why the cop shouldn't give you a ticket when you were going 77 mph in a 25 mph zone? …"
– My roommate would make Hannibal Lecter seem like a nice guy. “… See the dorm counselor or resident adviser on your floor as soon as possible …"
– Dorm food sucks. [Seen this one before?] “… See if you can eat some meals at other dorms where the food is more upper class, ethnic, vegetarian, low-calorie, plentiful, or whatever else you'd prefer …" [Right.]
– My dorm room makes the Motel 6 look like the Taj Mahal. “… At many schools, especially state universities, the dorms were built at many different times, and the quality varies significantly. Another thing to consider is living off campus …"
I have to wonder why the authors of this article say that students “love" to hate these issues. There seems to be a suggestion masochism in most of them.
Anyway, here are some of my updated thoughts about college:
– Don't look for college costs to come down anytime soon. The simple reason why: market forces and supply and demand. As long as there are more applicants than dorm beds, there's no need for colleges to get into the “sale" mode. Granted, there are some colleges whose budgets are in less-than-optimum shape and who are scouring the landscape for enrollments. However, many, if not most, colleges are looking for ways to reject more students, thus making them appear to be more selective. As for the Ivy League and other so-called “elite" colleges, I think they will continue to raise their student budgets year after year. Why? Well, just as Three Days of The Condor hit man, Joubert, observed about his clients, “There's always someone willing to pay."
– Look for the Federal government to become more controlling over higher education. Unless you're on a news blackout, you must have certainly noticed that government regulation is creeping into many new areas of our everyday lives. The latest bureaucratic incursions are happening in the areas of student loans (although under the label of consumer protection) and even sports (the presidential “concussion summit"). I predict that there will be significant admission-related changes invoked as a result of the forthcoming immigration reforms about to happen in Congress. State governments will have their say, too. We've already seen states grant in-state tuition breaks for non-citizens attending their state universities. The red tape is going to get more red.
– Watch classical liberal arts colleges become more vocationally focused. Back to market forces … The rising need for workers with more highly focused skills will eventually demand that smaller private colleges begin offering more specialized degree programs to make their cost of education more attractive. This will, in my view, cause the pendulum to begin swinging away from such generalized degrees as ethnic and women's studies, and even such traditional majors as classics, philosophy, and psychology, and gravitate more toward programs teaching more specifically applicable skills, such as nursing and STEM-related disciplines.
Okay, I've had my say. Now, what do you think about college? That's what the comment box down below is for.
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.