College: Then vs. Now

College today is not what it used to be. Today’s generation has it a lot tougher than previous generations. From increasing costs of tuition, textbooks and more rigorous academics, it seems as if the college students of today can’t catch a break.

Whenever college students talk about their schooling to members of the older generation, often times their responses will be somewhere along the lines of, “Quit complaining, you’re just lazy,” or my personal favorite, “If you would work harder, like I did when I was your age, you wouldn’t be in this mess!”

What our predecessors don’t seem to understand is how completely different the “college experience” is now compared to when they were in school. Tuition prices are a lot higher in recent times, and for most students, financial aid doesn’t cover all their expenses. Back then, a student didn’t have to rely on financial aid; they could just have a part time job and use the money earned from there to pay their way through school. Not to say that a student can’t pay their way in current times, but it definitely would require more than one job to be able to do that.

Some students are lucky enough to get scholarships or grants from their state, but not everyone is as lucky as others. Even with all that “free money” combined, in some cases these scholarships and grants don’t entirely cover the costs of schooling. When that happens, students are either forced to take out loans or drop out and work full time to save up enough money to pay off the costs on their own.

Student debt is so high, it is absolutely ridiculous, and for most students the prospect of graduating with massive debt deters them from ever even starting their college education. It’s not that the current generation of college students are lazy or not working hard enough; it’s just that the entire system in general is more difficult than it used to be.

When you talk to the older generation about their experiences in college, often times they will recall it fondly, saying something like “Those were the golden days.” To them, college was an equal parts fun, social and educational. For most college students today it’s less fun and social, and more like a sort of educational purgatory. Today, kids are expected to go to college; in fact, it’s become a sort of requirement, a “must” if you want to do well and be successful in life.

For many students this mounting pressure to do well combined with all the stress and anxiety from trying to keep up with their schoolwork can lead to burn out and discouragement. This is how students’ disinterest starts to build, until eventually they have a breakdown, or just give up and drop out of school. It’s all pretty overwhelming, and to have people who have no idea what you’re going through telling you to just “suck it up,” is just more than one can bear.

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