Choosing How College Will Affect Us
Tom Hanks said to one of his children while they drove past the community college he attended, ”That place made me what I am today.” Coming from a person as successful as he, those words really speak to the transformative power of higher education. Everyone knows that going to college can have lasting positive effects on a person, and I believe that is why most students are drawn to the academic path. Students are seeking personal growth, job opportunities, higher earning power, and better healthcare and retirement options. However, not all of the effects of college are strictly positive and students must make good choices to navigate through some potentially negative immediate effects in order to enjoy the positive effects they desire.
One of the potentially negative effects of college is its cost. A student not only has to pay for books and classes, but they also have to spend hours of their time per week studying–leaving less time for the student to work and earn money. According to an article from America Magazine, “The current federal student loan debt is over $800 billion” (5). Money is obviously needed to survive, so students often need to borrow in order to pay their living expenses while they attend school. While the average debt for a four-year college graduate is $26,000, it is safe to say taking on this kind of debt is not one of the desired effects of attending college. However, students are still flocking in to colleges by the tens of millions and taking out loans by the billions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20.5 million new college students enrolled in school this fall. It seems like every student I talk to knows student debt is a real issue for graduates which makes me wonder, why are so many people willing to take on the financial burden of higher education? As it turns out, one reasons is that new students might be misinformed about the cost of supporting themselves while attending college. Stephen Burd a senior policy analyst for the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program says, “Colleges don’t always come clean about how much students and families are going to have to pay to attend an institution” (Burd 68). In other words, colleges sometimes underestimate the financial need of a student to attend their institution in order to make their school seem like an affordable option. Because of this misinformation, students may end up taking on more student debt then they have planned. Students should be aware that colleges are not just institutions for learning they are also a source of revenue for many big businesses, and students should proceed with caution when considering taking out student loans to fund their education.
In spite of the potential pitfalls of accumulating student debt, I think most of the effects people would consider negative can be looked at as positive effects as well. Even the effect of having a greater financial need with limited time to work can have positive outcomes for students. For example, in my situation as a single father raising two children, I have limited time to work while attending school; therefore, I have had to research and be creative to find ways to get the resources I need to attend school while supporting myself and my family. Though they are not advertised, there are a lot of programs available to help people who need assistance while attending school, and since I have felt the pressure of my increased financial need as a student and single parent I have been motivated to find–and get–any resources available to me. Because of this, along with receiving my G.I. Bill and getting a Pell Grant, I have applied for and received 100% free childcare for the duration of my college training, a $1,600 Cal Grant, book vouchers totaling $1,100 from E.O.P.S. and the VA, and I am going to be applying for a scholarship from the Ventura College Foundation this January. In short, being a starving student with limited time and recourses can motivate a person to learn how to find funding they need for school or projects in creative ways–which is a beneficial skill in business and life in general.
Another effect of college, that some may consider to be negative, is that students have to adapt to the rigor of college level academics in order to succeed and progress academically. College coursework requires a lot of time, energy and effort to complete, and it can take some time to adapt to the stress that comes with having deadlines for homework and tests to take. I am in my third semester, and I still don’t feel quite adapted to the course work. I think this is because once I feel comfortable with what is expected of me in a class, the class ends and I’m soon in a new class with a higher level of work required. The way I see it, I am becoming a more capable human with each level of course work I adapt to which is improving my ability to be useful and provide for others and myself.
College can also have the effect of expanding a student’s social skills as well as their comfort zone. For example, Tom Hanks while giving a speech about his community college experience said, “A public speaking class was unforgettable for a couple of reasons. First, the assignments forced us to get over our self-consciousness. Second, another student was a stewardess, as flight attendants called themselves in the ’70s. She was studying communications and was gorgeous…Communicating with her one on one was the antithesis of public speaking” (Hanks). Toms’ anecdote proves that college can help to boost a student’s confidence and social skills by offering them situations, both social and academic, that can help them expand their comfort zone. However, it is up to the students to decide weather or not they will use those opportunities face their fears. College has given me many opportunities to expand my comfort zone both in and out of the classroom. In the classroom I have been provided with opportunities to read out loud and to present my work to others, and outside of the classroom I have felt inspired to get over my fears of self expression by playing my flute in the common areas and doing partnered acrobatics between classes. I feel like making the choice to face my fears and push past my comfort zone has given me more freedom to be my authentic self.
Ultimately, I feel the challenging immediate effects of college like the cost in money, time, and effort are the same for everyone. However, the sum of those effects and how they influence the development of a student is determined by the choices they make while in school. By making good financial choices and looking at the challenges college brings as opportunities for personal growth, students can influence how college will benefit them in the long term.
Burd, Stephen, and Rachel Fishman. “TEN WAYS COLLEGES WORK YOU OVER.” The Washington Monthly Sep 2014: 66- 9. ProQuest. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
Hanks, Tom. “I Owe it all to Community College.” New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast) ed.Jan 14 2015. ProQuest. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
“The Student Debt Crisis.” America May 11 2015: 5. ProQuest. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.