The Researchers and Pollsters shall, from time to time, give to the Academic Communities information on the State of the Student Union.”
…and then that research is variously interpreted by media outlets. We have three different takes on a report from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California at Los Angeles, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010, a survey of 202,000 students from 280 institutions. We’re also asking for your feedback, as the folks who are in the field.
The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Economy Changed Freshmen’s Plans But Didn’t Shake Their Confidence,” by Sara Lipka focuses on freshmen’s self-assessments: a statistically impossible 71.2% rated their academic abilities as “above average,” and they were generally confident in their overall abilities. Lipka also looks at the results discussing how the economy affected the students’ college choices. While students who said money had an impact on their college choice were nearly as likely to gain admission to their first choice schools as students who said money wasn’t a factor, they were far more likely to not be going to that first-choice institution, and they were also much more likely to be attending college close to home, or living at home.
Question for You: Have you seen this haves-and-have-nots polarization on your campus?
Takeaway Quote: “‘More students expect more of themselves and expect more of the college environment,’ said John H. Pryor, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, which administers the survey.” This reminds me of yesterday’s blog post on expectations and higher ed costs.
Inside HigherEd: “Stressed, Yet Hopeful,“ by Allie Grasgreen looks at another polarization: Students have huge expectations for the college experience and themselves, but they also are dealing with significant mental health issues. Stressors range from finances to anxieties about social acceptance. So much is riding on the college experience and so much is at risk. Grasgren points out that the students’ hopes that a college degree will lead to financial security and overall success are belied by other studies that show that a college education doesn’t guarantee those things the way it used to. And even while they sometimes seem reluctant to meet and talk face-to-face, students have said that interpersonal contact with other freshmen would help them acclimate to the college experience. So maybe what students can seem reluctant to do is what they most want–and need–too.
Question for You: Have you noticed students needing social programs, even as they seem reluctant to attend or participate?
Takeaway Quote: “’Is it realistic to have incredibly high expectations of the college experience? Probably not,’ Pryor said, noting that both this survey and others reflect ‘tremendously high’ expectations. ‘Would I want it any different? Probably not.’” — John H. Pryor, lead author of the report and director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program.
The New York Times: “Record Level of Stress Found in College Freshmen,” by Tamar Lewin focuses, as you might’ve guessed, on the mental and emotional health aspects of the survey. While students were likely to say their academic abilities were above average, only 52% have the same thing to say about their mental health. Throughout the survey, women’s opinion of their own mental health has been lower than that of men, and this year is no different, with the gap widening. Researchers point out that young men are more likely to blow off steam by working out, playing video games or acting up–drinking and property damage for example. The researchers also say, echoing the Inside HigherEd article, that students are pining many hopes on college, and they’re aware, to one degree or another, that college (and the economy) may not deliver. Also, students may have unrealistically high expectations for their mental health. They may be under the impression others are more mentally healthy when that isn’t the case.
Question for You: Have you encouraged students to see college as more than just a path to a big paycheck, as a way to grow as a person, make friends and discover interests? Is this successful?
Takeaway Quote: “I don’t think students have an accurate sense of other people’s mental health,” he added. “There’s a lot of pressure to put on a perfect face, and people often think they’re the only ones having trouble.” — Dr. Mark Reed, director, Dartmouth College counseling