College students have been under more and more pressure in recent years, especially during the recent recession. In the 2010 version of “The American Freshman,” a survey that has taken data about college first years for 25 years, students reported the lowest level of emotional health in the history of the survey.
Financial pressures are undoubtedly contributing to this new low in emotional health; the survey found the highest level of first years taking out student loans and needing other forms of financial aid in the last decade. Their families are less able to contribute as well: 2010 saw a record level of unemployed parents.
There are also signs that students decreasingly see college as a place to explore themselves. Instead, students see themselves as consumers buying a diploma. Almost three-quarters of students said the main benefit of college was that it “increases oneâÄôs earning power.”
Because of high tuition, students have to justify their degree economically and have started seeing college as extended career training. This only ramps up the pressure to perform, and studentsâÄô mental health suffers.
Everyone making decisions that affect students must start to see them as more than walking and talking bank accounts to be leveraged at will.
Students are already under pressure from systemic issues like a poor job market, a high-pressure academic environment and a down economy. Heaping more pressure on them by cutting course offerings while pushing four-year graduation and hiking tuition year after year does not just take a financial toll on students; it takes a mental and emotional one as well.