Editor’s note: This is the third in a series examining the future of higher education.
Students entering higher education today experience an entirely different world from generations past.
Pressures and expectations are heightened, tuition costs are steadily on the rise and competition is more heated than ever as openings for stable careers are slowly disappearing.
Grand Rapids sophomore Trevor Dieffenbach said he anticipates more students to pursue options other than universities straight out of high school in order to compensate for rising tuition costs.
“I think a rising trend will be that students will attend a community college and then transfer to a larger university,” Dieffenbach said. “If costs continue to rise, I think more students coming out of high school will try to enter the workforce to save up some money before attending college, and the age of enrollment might increase. I have also noticed a lot of my friends back home plan to attend college after military service and using the GI Bill to pay for tuition.”
Rockford sophomore Bethany Hicks said more emphasis is being placed on higher education, which is not necessarily a good thing.
“I would say that higher education is becoming more and more essential for anyone who wants a ‘successful’ career,” Hicks said. “I know that my future profession, speech pathology, used to only require a bachelor’s degree and now requires a master’s and is looking at moving to a doctorate program. I think that there is almost too much emphasis put on the schooling and prestigious letters after someone’s name and not enough on the real-world learning through internships and such.”
Warren senior Tom Trenkamp said there will be more accountability for higher educational institutions to provide students the means to a paying career rather than simply earning a degree.
“I think that due to the current economy, higher education will turn to a more practical degree,” he said. “Children growing up in this time will focus more on practical degrees versus liberal arts. Universities will start to be judged by the amount of students that can find work.”
Houghton Lake sophomore Jim Dunn said students should be given credit for other activities and endeavors they are involved in.
“You can walk onto any major university’s campus and there would be thousands of students involved with stimulating, important and just downright cool projects,” Dunn said. “From research papers about the physical demands of barbershop singing to publication of a paper about aqueous oxidation of manganese–these are all things that real students work on all over the country. But you’d never know about these projects, because there’s no way to get them recognized.”
Bad Axe junior Nick Varner said he was impressed by the availability of many great opportunities for students at CMU that promote student involvement and character development.
“Right now, I think CMU is doing very well for a mid-sized university,” Varner said. “We have one of the best teaching programs in the area, one of the best business programs in the country, one of the only meteorology programs in the country and a nationally awarded Honors newsletter, among other highly rated programs. Therefore, I see us as punching above our weightclass in regards to academics.”
Dunn said there are other great aspects of the university that are frequently overlooked or ignored.
“CMU’s science departments don’t get as much credit as I think they should,” Dunn said. “There are a lot of professors in biology, chemistry, geology and physics that not only provide great instruction to their students but also conduct stimulating and relevant research. Overall, I think CMU is a university that is growing in strength all the time.”
Despite the university’s accomplishments and quality programs, Varner said there are still several things that it can be found at fault for. Rising costs, particularly, are proving to be a detriment to the higher educational system.
“The way I see it, the administration of CMU is a little out of touch with spending priorities,” he said. “They, tragically, were forced to raise tuition to avoid deficit, but were able to build a new Events Center, a new medical building, start a new medical program, pay several new deans for said med school very high paychecks before they did a day’s work for the university, and renew the contract for a coach that has run this school’s once sterling football program into the gutter. …I would like to see funding go back into the students and faculty. Reward the faculty members who go above and beyond for the students. Pour money into the programs that give students unique, life-changing opportunities.”