Higher Education; The Student Struggle

Higher Education; The Student Struggle


Over the past few decades there has been a huge emphasis on higher education. It is one of the ways the average American can actualize the American Dream. Unfortunately attaining a higher education is not simple. College students face multiple types of challenges affecting their performance in school. Mental health, developing their education plan, and rising costs of tuition all contribute to this difficulty.
The first challenge faced by students as they enter higher education is psychological. Many students become overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious over the amount of work distributed in each class. When students are submerged in these psychological difficulties, it affects their health and overall well-being. Simple things like traffic (for students that commute), parking, and bad professors can increase stress levels. As a result, students do not perform their best, and sometimes even fail classes.
In Matt Carmichael’s essay, “Get Radical. Get Some Rest” he states “we live in a hyperactive culture where more is continually demanded of us.” (86)  For instance, around mid-terms and finals, students, especially full-time students, taking 3-4 classes could be required to submit several essays within one week. Since professors do not coordinate with one another, students are forced to work extra hard to meet the due dates.  As a result, students are left with unbridled anxiety, stress, and no guarantee about their academic prospects. Recently, a friend of mine, who serves as the vice president of student government at a University of California (UC) shared that the UC system is providing $300,000 in aid to her campus to bolster mental health services to students. Challenges faced by today’s students are distinct and university administrators are realizing that effective measures are needed to improve the well-being of students.
The second challenge college students face is the pressure to develop an education plan. Often times parents have a specific discipline they want their child to enter. For many, medicine, law, or engineering is the optimal choice. Unfortunately, choosing an education plan is not that simple. It takes years of experience and exposure to a wide range of topics to finally decide on one path. Growing up, I never had a specific career I wanted to delve in. Though my parents encouraged me to do well in school I was never pushed toward a certain field–I was given complete freedom. When I began my senior year of highschool, I took economics and was instantly captivated. I told everyone who asked me what I wanted to study that I was going into the field of finance and business. Considering future job prospects, as my senior year progressed, I came to the realization that this may not be the ideal road for me. Which leads me to the next significant struggle faced by college students.
We as students living in a democratic nation value exposure to a wide variety of subjects. However, when we find a field that we want to invest in long-term, our hard years in college will not always pay off.  Millions of dollars are channeled into higher education yet we do not know if that money will be returned to us. In the article “Should Everyone Go to College?” Owen and Sawhill mention, “According to Census’s calculations, the lifetime earning of an education or arts major working in the service sector are actually lower than the average lifetime earnings of a high school graduate.”  The pressure to have an education plan also ties back to the psychological aspect of college. Society often looks down on students that choose a non-traditional route–students who have children or support their families can not easily transition to a four-year university. These students may need to take some time off after graduation to work or save up in order to soften the potential debt all the while still being faced with the uncertainty of not knowing if their undergraduate years will pay off. This compounds stress and anxiety.
The third and possibly most important type of challenge faced by college students is tuition or the overall cost of education. Tuition is one of the biggest reasons many of the younger generation today can not attend a four-year university. In general, college costs thousands of dollars. When one includes the cost of books, rent, health insurance, and even transportation students graduate with the heavy burden of debt.
One may argue that if tuition is too expensive one should not feel compelled to attend college. This doesn’t speak to the reality of the world we live in today. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that the lowest levels of unemployment are among those with Bachelor degrees or higher (BLS.gov). Additionally, it reports, “ In 2009, the median weekly earnings of workers with bachelor’s degrees were $1,137. This amount is 1.8 times the average amount earned by those with only a high school diploma, and 2.5 times the earnings of high school dropouts.” (bls.gov).
The obstacles of high tuition affect the mental health of students. They are overwhelmed by the possibility of not being able to afford something that so greatly affects his/her future. Tuition is also a major factor when choosing an education plan. Depending on the choice of major, tuition can be onerous to repay. School is challenging, but it is one of the best ways to ensure economic security.
Students encounter several problems at college that can increase their level of stress and anxiety. Mental health issues among students are increasing at such alarming rates that they are capturing the attention of university administrators further highlighting the challenge students face. Having an education plan is vital for every student in order to efficiently obtain a degree without a pile of debt waiting at the finish line. Finally, tuition is one of the biggest struggles faced by many students. Not knowing how one is going to pay for school is worrisome, but it is a decision that defines the rest of one’s life.

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