Saturday, January 29, 2011

Freshman Report Poor Mental Health

A recent study by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute revealed a decline in the mental well being of college freshman. Only 52 percent of the surveyed 200,000 students rated their emotional health above average. This is a 3.9 percent drop from 2009. What caused  this?

I blame deindustrialization. That is a broad net to cast over such a complicated issue, I know, but stay with me. In the 1980s, many U.S. companies moved their manufacturing off shore--and blue-collar jobs along with it. The lack of a labor market made college an absolute necessity. That increased the number of applicants and tuition prices. Many of middle-class families could not afford tuition outright, so the students are enrolled on scholarship or student loans.  I'm not sure which is more stressful, getting a B- in anthropology to keep the scholarship or  the11 percent interest rates to pay back the loan.

The college degree became the norm to get a white-collar job and success. In order to stand out from the crowd in this horrible job market, students feel pressured to better get that internship, graduate in the top 10 percent, receive a 700 on the GRE, and get a research grant. Do all of this and you can get that interview!

But once there, will we all be saying, "What’s that? What do you mean I don’t have any work experience?" No wonder our emotional well-being suffers.

-Michael Lynch

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