Throughout the country college tuition continues to rise along with the debt and financial pressure American students inevitably accrue. The recession may be officially over, but serious debt remains a reality for many students, and for some, academic pursuits suffer.
This assessment is part of the results from creators of the National Survey of Student Engagement, who asked how finances were affecting students academically. NSSE director Alexander C. McCormick says results are “not too surprising, but worrisome.” Translated, this means that for many students the impact is pretty steep.
The survey reports data from U.S. and Canadian institutions, and finds that finances greatly affect students’ academic lives. Approximately 60 percent of full-time seniors who work more than 20 hours a week reported that work interfered with their school performance, yet an equal number admitted they often looked to work more hours because they needed the money to cover their costs. Concerns about finances worried a significant number of students; 32 percent of first year students and 36 percent of seniors admitting that financial concerns affected school performance.
Disturbing data emerges when 27 percent of freshmen and 34 percent of seniors say they often or very often do not buy required academic materials due to the cost. Hopefully, students can borrow the textbooks needed from friends, but that is still limiting access and not the best solution.
It is no wonder then that when asked if a string of factors “substantially” influenced their choice of major, that financial considerations were in the forefront; 55 percent of seniors answered “yes” to having the ability to find a job, and 52 percent stated potential salary as incentives. Career mobility or advancement was important to 59 percent of responders, and 41 percent mentioned possible management positions. In spite of these numbers, an overwhelming 89 percent of seniors answered positively when asked if academic interests and personal talents influenced their major choices.
The financial findings speak for what colleges need to consider to be sure students have the counseling and information they need to know what is best for future long-term success.
Borrowing for college and the resulting debt many students graduate with is a hot topic these days, but careful evaluation is due. According to McCormick, the NSSE director, “the evidence is still pretty clear that borrowing is a better strategy than working full-time and going to school full-time.” He continued, “if students are using social media, maybe that’s another angle for reaching students.”
Social Media: A Part Of College Life
McCormick’s reference to social media was not at random. The survey’s financial conclusions were part of the experimental nature of the NSSE questions asked each year, based on interest or relevancy at a particular time; it was totally natural the survey included a section on the effect of social networking on students and their academic lives.
A practical observation emerged from the social media use findings. While certainly many students use social media for study and various academic purposes – 28 percent reported using it to plan study groups or tutoring sessions, 3 percent to complete class assignments, 17 percent to explore internship opportunities, and 15 percent to communicate with faculty or school advisers. Students who made academic use of social media were likely to collaborate or interact with other students and faculty outside the classroom as well. They also reported higher satisfaction with their educations in general.
Yet, in spite of using social media for academic purposes, most students use social media to socialize, which probably surprises no one who has been on a campus or college classroom in 2012. Indeed, more than two-thirds of students have used it in class, at least admitting to sometime use, with one in three, using social media in frequently in class, particularly first-year students using it somewhat more than seniors.
The recommendation to colleges in light of the pervasive use of social media in class as well as out, is one that is purely practical. “Colleges and universities will have to balance the distraction of social media during class with the potential to engage students through this new avenue of connections.” Well said, considering the reality of college classrooms today.
* Become a subscriber and stay in touch with my information updates!
meet me at: facebook/mgraysmith.writer