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Many modern students are faced with what appears to be the daunting task of learning while plagued with an obscenely large volume of distractions, effectively cutting GPA, increasing workload, and enlarging stress levels.
Imagine meeting a student in the office for an advising appointment. When you greet this student, she acknowledges you by pulling one iPod ear bud out of her ear; you can hear the music pumping. You request that she turn off the iPod as you begin to discuss her courses and academic goals. In the middle of your conversation, her cell phone rings and your student answers it. You gather that she is speaking with her mother: "Yes, I'm in my appointment right now. . . . Yes, I remember. . . . No, I haven't asked her yet. Hang on." Then she turns to you and says, "My mother wants to know if these are the right courses for my major." Before you have a chance to respond, she returns to her call. "Yeah, mom, I asked her. I'll text you when I'm done.'(Endres 1).
College education, long touted as being the most important foundations to the development of one's future, the institution that we so often see as the only way to get ahead in life, has become a less obtainable possibility for students across the United States. 'It is estimated that 40% of college students will leave higher education without getting a degree, with 75% percent of these students leaving within their first two years of college. Freshman class attrition rates are typically greater than any other academic year and are commonly as high as 20-30%. These statistics show a need for colleges to do something about retention rates.' (Martindale, 2) Stressors ranging from massive accumulations of debts due to student loans, working long hours to tackle the expenses of higher education, enjoying one's self too much at parties, and attempting to maintain a GPA while experiencing one or more of these college stressors. Through a combination of field and article research that was related to these stressors and distractions a general conclusion was able to be drawn regarding the current degrading state of college students and their focus on education.
The most prevalent obstacle that every university student must face in acquiring a higher education is the associated cost of the coursework, teacher salary, and educational material. It is understood that by earning a college degree the potential expected income that an individual will receive upon graduation and immediate employment will be much higher than without. One aspect of acquiring this education that is always considered is payment of the educational expenses. However, these expenses are often alleviated by means of student loans, providing the illusion that all of one's college expenses have been paid for, when in reality they are still very much in existence, only altered in the date that the student becomes responsible for them and will be required to be paid off upon graduation. 'A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics (1) shows that about 50% of recent college graduate have student loans, with an average student loan debt of $10,000.' (Studentdoc.com 1). With the average expenses for college rising at nearly double the rate of national inflation this is becoming a very prevalent issue. According to an article from the New York Times, 'If your academic interests lead you to think your ultimate career path will result in an average annual income of $50,000' then $50,000 is the maximum amount of loans you would want to take out.' (Ruiz, 1). By not exceeding this limit a student can effectively eliminate their college debt within approximately ten years after graduation while maintaining the ability to afford all of the necessities required for living independently. This budgeting will affect the actual universities that the student in question will be able to attend. For example, averaging the costs of tuition and housing at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, available on the school's webpage, it can be expected that an undergraduate that is a Michigan resident will pay approximately $25,000 or more per year to achieve a bachelor's degree. That comes to $100,000 at a minimum for a four year degree. If one is to specialize in medicine, law, or business, then the costs can far exceed $240,000 for the same four years with rates for non-residents nearly double.
As mentioned during the class discussions regarding the millennial generation, students are no longer focusing singularly on a single task that may be at hand. Their attention tends to be divided among the many digital devices that each uses to maintain contact with friends, family, and forms of entertainment. Also stated by Endres and Tisinger, 'as new technologies emerge, many on our campuses see a decline in the educational outcomes of student learning. Quick access to information can lead to a lack of critical thinking about sources and quality of information, as well as an inability to "mine for data;" many students will likely click one or two pages into a Website, but no further.' (Endres, 2). Students have become caught up in websites such as Twitter and Facebook which encourage individuals to publicly post their daily activities. This would normally not be an issue so long as those that are sharing this information don't post sensitive information that could cause their identity to be stolen, or for their reputations to be ruined, or even their educational careers erased. An example depicting an expulsion from an education system due to Facebook occurred in Nashville, Tennessee January 3, 2010. Taylor Cummings was expelled from an unmentioned Nashville high school for posting very aggressive threats against the faculty of his basketball team. Parents that noticed the public postings immediately contacted the school, reporting on the cyber threats. The teen claimed that the threats were hollow, and he had no actual intention of following through with them, however the faculty stated 'They can't take any chances.' (USA Today 1).
Aside from the web itself, students are also increasing the volume of text messages that they send and receive before, during, and after class. Many, if not all, teachers in the modern college systems will see at least one student ignoring what they are sitting in the classroom to learn so that they may text, often trivial, material to friends and family. A survey of Fresno State students discovered that 84% of the students attending the school regularly text message with their phones, and of that number 70% claimed to text while they are in class. What may be difficult to believe is that many students feel as though their education is not terribly affected by these distracting conversations (Besser 1). With the exponential increase in the use of text messaging due to its convenience and speed it may become even more difficult for educational systems to foster environments that are conducive to learning without the distraction of SMS Messages. According to the CTIA, between 2005 and 2010 the number of monthly text based messages in the United States increased from 7.2 Billion to 173.2 Billion, an increase of 2300%. In comparison, the number of customers has only increased by 50% during the same time period, this equates to approximately 590 texts per person per month in 2010 compared to 37 texts per person per month in 2005. This is a very concrete indicator of how much of a distracter cell phones are during class periods, which begs the question, should college campuses ban cell phone use during class?
High schools have already begun making an attempt at banning cell phone usage during school hours. These attempts however, seem to be doing little to curb cell phone use at all. The New York school system has had a strict ban on wireless communication devices since the 1980s, yet even now students will disassemble their phones to sneak them into school in parts to bypass the metal detectors and pat-downs that have become ever more common since the 9-11 disaster. Students feel that their phones 'Have become too vital to their daily existence,' the CBS article detailing this school system also discovered that parents are even against the ban claiming that in the event of another disaster they must be able to contact their children. Regardless of the reasoning for fighting such a ban it can be seen that the implementation and enforcement of such a policy would not be without its issues, and for the time being these wireless devices will remain a very large contributor to educational distractions.
Research was conducted locally among the student population to attempt to gain an understanding as to what average university students were experiencing in their forays into an undergraduate degree. Every individual that was surveyed is currently enrolled in a college or university full time, equating to at least three days per week of attendance; seven percent of those surveyed reported attending classes more than five days per week, Monday-Saturday, with seventy percent attending class five days per week. Of these students, sixty percent of the respondents were employed part-time at the administration of the survey. Oddly enough the bulk of the respondents claimed to spend five or less hours per week in the utilization of the television, video games, and the internet. This came as a surprise considering the large popularity of all three of the electronic entertainment mediums, the low usage of the internet especially was a surprise, however the individuals that partook in the survey did not count time spent utilizing the internet for work or educational purposes. Seventy percent of those surveyed claimed to have skipped class at least once for work and entertainment related reasons, and the same percentage felt that a college degree was important for the development of their future and intend on continuing into graduate studies. From what was garnered through this simple research it has been determined that although the modern university students have a large amount of negative distractions to their actual educational progress and development, many are still working on seeing their educational goals met. These goals however are still being inhibited by the sprawl of each individual's extracurricular activities.
Do we as students truly understand the impact of a higher education in terms of securing a more productive future? Will education ever receive the attentive focus that many claim it mandates? Though we still recognize that there is importance to a college education, we seem to be fracturing our attention among multiple distracters ranging from employment, to socializing with our friends, placing educational performance on a lower level of priority than we may even realize. This modern technological society has created a plethora of attention grabbing products for the young college student that will continue to pull one's focus away from the educational task at hand. Cellular phones will further evolve in their capabilities in communication, computation, and entertainment and have become so ingrained in this society that it may become impossible to disconnect students from their wireless stream of information. Furthermore, the cost of attending an accredited university will continue to stand as a roadblock for the many financially insecure students whose only goal is to utilize their newfound education to become successful in a job market that practically requires a college degree to be employed on any level above that of minimum wage. Regardless of an individual's motivation for seeking a college degree one thing is for certain, the acquisition of it will be highly costly, both financially and attentively.