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Our View: College education changing the landscape

Published: Thursday, July 31, 2014 8:46 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014 8:51 p.m. CST

“Seven years of college, down the drain.”

– John “Bluto” Blutarsky in “Animal House”

College – and college students – are evolving.

Years ago (like when your mom and dad were in school, recent high school grads), a large part of the college “experience” was finding oneself.

It was a four-year or more journey of being exposed to other ideas, cultures and beliefs.

There were those who had their lives mapped out and knew exactly what the end result would be. Thousands of others entering the halls of academia year after year were intrigued by the multitude of course offerings and dabbled a little here and a little there before finding their calling. It was not uncommon to take until sophomore or junior year to actually declare a major.

That psychological growth and social experimentation were important aspects of the higher education process, almost as important as the classes.

Things are changing, though. As tuition costs go higher and higher – as much as 70 to 80 percent during the past five years alone – students are maximizing their semesters to spend as little time as possible in school. The cost of a college education in the United States has increased 1,120 percent in the past 30 years, according to a report by Bloomberg, surpassing medical expenses (601 percent) and food (244 percent).

Because of that, parents are increasingly turning to alternatives such as community colleges or online education.

That’s a sign they still recognize the importance of a college education. A college grad will make about $1 million more in a lifetime than someone who doesn’t get a degree.

Yet it’s also a sign more are questioning the financial investment of higher learning at a time when college graduates are finding it difficult to become employed.

Country Financial, which has surveyed people on this issue for years now, says just 48 percent think college is a good investment. That has fallen from 81 percent just six years ago.

The same survey shows 78 percent of those responding believe this generation has it tougher when it comes to becoming financially independent.

These are disconcerting numbers, and something must change.

Before the GI Bill of Rights in 1944 opened the doors to college for people who otherwise might never have achieved beyond a high school education – almost 8 million now – higher education was something only the elite could afford.

The danger is that could become the mindset again.

That would be extremely unfortunate for a world that more and more demands cultural diversity, social interaction and critical thinking skills.

– Jacksonville Journal-Courier

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