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Subject:

Report from the Chron

From:

Norman Stahl <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 1 Feb 2005 11:22:41 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (231 lines)

http://chronicle.com/weekly/v51/i22/22a00101.htm
  From the issue dated February 4, 2005
 More Students Plan to Work to Help Pay for College
  Record percentages of freshmen also expect to take on high debt


 By ELIZABETH F. FARRELL Record-high percentages of students expect to work
while attending college and to take on large chunks of debt to pay their
tuition, according to an annual national survey of incoming freshmen
conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of
California at Los Angeles.

 The proportion of freshmen who anticipated owing at least $3,000 at the
end of their first year of college reached a new peak, 29.6 percent, rising
steadily from 24.1 percent in 2001. The largest percentage of students in
the 40-year history of the survey -- 8.8 percent -- foresaw borrowing more
than $10,000 as freshmen, a consistent rise from 5.6 percent in 2001.

 Almost half of college freshmen -- a record 47.2 percent -- said there was
a "very good chance" that they would have to work during the academic year.
Many more women than men -- 53.3 percent compared with 39.6 percent
-- believed they would have to get a job to help pay for college.

 A rapid increase in tuition brought on by tighter state budgets and a
faltering economy, combined with a decline in the buying power of grant aid
such as federal Pell Grants, are a few of the reasons students and their
families are bearing more of the cost of higher education.

 "Especially for families making less than $50,000, grant aid covers only a
small portion of the costs of attending college," said William J. Goggin,
staff director of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, a
federal panel that counsels Congress and the Education Department on
student-aid issues. "This is a really important problem for these students
because they work to avoid borrowing more, but the money they make lowers
their aid eligibility for the next year -- it's a downward spiral."

 A number of studies have shown that working more than 20 hours a week
increases the likelihood that a student will drop out of college.
Furthermore, federal-aid forms count 50 percent of the wages (over $2,420)
dependent students earn in a calendar year as available funds for the next
year -- even though students may use them to pay for their current year's
tuition.

 Nearly 300,000 incoming freshmen completed UCLA's comprehensive survey at
the beginning of the fall semester, answering more than 300 questions about
topics including their values, recreational habits, political preferences,
family situations, and personal finances.

 The survey is a widely cited source of data on college demographics and
attitudinal trends. Each of the 440 participating colleges receives a
profile of its students' answers.

 Less Diversity, More Apathy

 Interaction between students from different racial backgrounds dropped
slightly in 2004, according to the survey: 67.8 percent of those surveyed
reported that they frequently socialized with someone from a different
racial or ethnic group in high school, dropping consistently from 70
percent in 2001.

 A growing number of students appeared unlikely to have a diverse set of
friends in college. Only 63.1 percent reported that they expected to
socialize with people outside their own racial or ethnic group, the lowest
level since the question was first added to the survey in 2000.

 Social groups may indeed be less diverse at some public universities in
large states like California, where the recent demise of affirmative-action
programs means that fewer minority students are gaining acceptance, said
Sylvia Hurtado, director of the institute at UCLA.

 "The diversity in classes at a lot of the large public universities has
decreased," said Ms. Hurtado. "Just in the University of California system
alone, the number of African-American students attending has gone down
incredibly."

 Yet students said they cared less than ever before about those issues.
Only 29.7 percent cited "helping to promote racial understanding" as an
"essential" or "very important" goal for them, compared with 46.4 percent
in 1992.

 More students also said they believed that racial discrimination was no
longer a problem in America, with 22.7 percent agreeing with that
statement, the highest level in the history of the survey. Among different
racial and ethnic groups, however, the percentage varied greatly. While
24.9 percent of white students supported the statement, only 12.5 percent
of African-American students and 18.3 percent of students that the survey
calls Hispanic/Latino agreed.

 It is unclear whether less interaction among different groups led to the
shift in views or vice versa. Ms. Hurtado notes that survey participants
this year had many other concerns competing for their attention.

 "Everything else in the news took a higher priority for students," Ms.
Hurtado said. "The election and the war were heating up when they took this
survey, so issues related to those things took much more precedence in
their minds."

 Some colleges are spearheading efforts to promote interaction and
understanding among students from different backgrounds. At the University
of Michigan at Ann Arbor, for instance, Lester P. Monts, senior vice
provost, secured a $144,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to begin
developing a National Center for Institutional Diversity.

 The center will produce studies on the impact of diversity on interactions
among students, classroom learning, and curriculum development.

 "We won't simply address issues of student representation," said Mr.
Monts. "We will also explore institutional diversity in terms of curriculum
and faculty."

 Political Polarization

 Election-year politicking seemed to have a divisive effect on students.
More than ever before identified themselves as "far right" or "far left,"
at 2.2 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

 Another 26.1 percent of students said their political views were liberal,
compared with 21.9 percent who self-identified as conservative. Both of
those figures increased from the previous year.

 A plurality of incoming freshman (46.4 percent) considered their political
views to be "middle of the road" -- the lowest proportion in more than 30
years.

 During an election year, it is common for students to become more
politically polarized, but the numbers for both extreme categories were
never as high, according to Linda J. Sax, chief author of the UCLA survey
and an associate professor of education in residence at the university.

 More students also seemed interested in politics and current events. More
than 34 percent of students ranked "keeping up to date with political
affairs" as one of their "very important" or "essential" life goals,
continuing a four-year rise in that figure. In 2000 only 28.1 percent gave
the same answer.

 The proportion of students, 25.5 percent, who said they frequently
"discussed politics" reached its highest level since President Clinton's
first-term election in 1992.

 Students' views on many political issues differed from those of freshmen
surveyed in recent years. Support among students for an increase in federal
military spending dropped to 35.4 percent, a considerable decline from 45
percent two years ago.

 This year's freshmen were also more disapproving of capital punishment
than their predecessors: 33.2 percent said they agreed with the statement
"the death penalty should be abolished," the highest figure since 1980.

 At the same time, the number of students who agreed with the statement
"there is too much concern in our courts for the rights of criminals" fell
to 58.1 percent, the lowest level since 1976.

 Despite the rising interest in political issues, working to promote
changes in the system did not rate high on students' list of priorities.
Only 19.7 percent ranked "influencing the political structure" as an
"essential" or "very important" life goal, a drop from its peak of 22.5
percent in 1993.

 "They may be less interested because they feel that there is less that
they can do to really change things," said Ms. Sax. "Since we began asking
this question in 1969, it has always been a relatively low goal for
students because it requires more active involvement than just thinking or
talking about politics."

 Booze, Food, and Gay Rights

 For the first time in 22 years, the proportion of students who reported
drinking beer frequently or occasionally did not decline, rising slightly
to 45.5 percent, up from 44.8 percent in 2003.

 Smoking had been losing popularity among students every year since 1998,
but this year the proportion of students reporting that they smoked
cigarettes stayed about the same, at 6.4 percent compared to 6.3 percent in
2003.

 In a trend that was perhaps related to those findings, more students
reported that they were "frequently bored," in their high-school classes,
at a record high of 42.8 percent, compared with 40.1 percent last year. But
the highest proportion of students ever -- 47.5 percent -- reported earning
A averages in school.

 Freshmen entering Catholic colleges expressed more support for homosexuals
than did their counterparts at public universities and other religious
colleges. While 27.2 percent of students at Catholic colleges said they
agreed "strongly" or "somewhat" that "it is important to have laws
prohibiting homosexual relationships," 31.3 percent of students at public
institutions and 43.7 percent of students at other religious institutions
agreed with that statement.

 A similar pattern appeared when students were asked if they "strongly" or
"somewhat" agreed with the statement, "Same-sex couples should have the
right to legal marital status." At Catholic colleges, 58.5 percent of
students agreed, more than the 55.4 percent at public colleges and the 40.6
percent at other religious institutions.

 Finally, if the men entering college are not healthier than the women,
they certainly think they are. In response to a question that asked
students to rate their physical health, 64.1 percent of males placed
themselves in the "above average" or "highest 10 percent" category compared
with only 42.6 percent of women.

 More women than men also reported missing school because of an illness in
the past year, 76.6 percent compared with 62.9 percent. Maybe diet is
responsible for the difference: For the first time ever, students were
asked to rate their eating habits, and only 33.7 percent of women said they
frequently maintained a healthy diet, compared with 37.9 percent of men.

 http://chronicle.com
 Section: Students
 Volume 51, Issue 22, Page A1

Norman A. Stahl
Professor and Chair
Literacy Education
GA 147
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Phone: (815) 753-9032
FAX:   (815) 753-8563
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