A B.S. in Mrs.

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Doc Seidman Says……

….In 1960 in the United States, a six-pack of beer was 99ȼ, a loaf of bread was 20ȼ, and a movie ticket was $1. Minimum wage was $1.25 but with gas at 25ȼ a gallon, you could still live large.

Also in 1960, just over 7.5 million students were enrolled in U.S. colleges. Of that, approximately 54% were men and 46% were women. Fifty-five years later, in 2015, those percentages reversed themselves. While the number of students enrolled in college jumped to 17 million, 56% were now female and 44% where male. What gives?

For one, women weren’t pursuing careers sixty years ago like they were today.  Having a career aspiration back then was not very common. The years leading up the 60s prioritized women staying home, raising children, and taking care of the household while men went off to work. Women’s careers were pretty much limited to teaching and secretarial work in those days.

It was often noted that women who did go to college experience went to not only get a degree, but to find a husband. The median age for a first marriage in 1960 was 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women; the college age years.  In 2015 the ages men and women got married were 29.2 and 27.1 respectively. Men and women were a bit more in a hurry to find a lifelong spouse several generations ago than they are now. Without Match.com or Tinder at the ready in 1960, college might have been the matchmaking app of its time. Your mother swiped right.

Many have speculated why that was the case. Was it true that a college woman wanted to spend the rest of her life with a college man? Did she feel the secret to a happy life and marriage was to be with someone with “book smarts” and not “street smarts?” My mother, a college graduate, told me that a big reason she went to college was to find a husband. She, like many others, also wanted to get away from home. College to the rescue! A four-year college experience in a new city provided the opportunity to move away from home and find a husband.

Was the same thinking true for college men? Was a college man in 1960 keen to spend the rest of his life with a college woman, or did he want a stay at home wife? There were probably cases of both. Many men back then were intimidated by a female college grad. A woman’s place was in the home, wasn’t it? It certainly wasn’t in the corporate boardroom.

Things have certainly changed in since then.  More women than men are not only attending college, but using the experience to launch their careers instead of their marriage. Hookups and “friends with benefits” are more the college norm than finding that special someone to spend the rest of your life with. And why not, college is expensive. With close to $40,000 in student loan debt for the average college graduate, there is too much on the line. It is career first, then husband. Furthermore, more than three out of every four college students hold at least one job while they are attending college. Who has time to find the perfect partner anymore?

Clearly, attending college to receive a B.S. in Mrs. Is a thing of the past. True, there are still many women and men who find their lifetime partner while attending college, but nowhere near as frequently than in the past. College is a big expense and a serious business, today’s students therefore want to get down to business…the business of graduating and starting their careers.

Congratulations Graduate!

Mortorboard

Doc Seidman Says……

…….For college seniors, the month of May is something many have been waiting for.  The cold, blustery months of winter turn into the refreshing warmth of spring (except here in Florida), and college students throughout the country prepare to graduate. Graduation, or commencement, as it is called in academia, is an extraordinarily joyful time for students. And why not? They just spent the last four or so years sitting through tedious lectures, pretending to laugh at the professor’s boring jokes, and doing arduous class assignments. The thrill of walking across the commencement stage and throwing a mortarboard into the air in celebration is almost second to none. As a faculty member sitting in the audience, or as an administrator sitting on the stage, I, too was joyful and proud.

Some students learn the hard way that walking across the stage and celebrating with friends and family does not necessarily mean they have graduated. It simply means they have participated in the ceremony. The diploma comes sometime later, after the college has done its due diligence to make sure the graduation requirements have been fulfilled. It’s quite possible that there are students dressed in cap and gown, joyfully celebrating with their friends, who have yet to pass Statistics, or French, or Organic Chemistry, or Food Safety and Sanitation, or any other degree requirement. Don’t get too excited. It’s back to the classroom for you.

But for most everyone else, however, it is indeed a terrific accomplishment and a joyful time. It is something that will be with you forever and nobody can take away.

Unfortunately, many folks who start college don’t finish. In fact, recent statistics have shown that only 55% of four-year college students complete their degree within six years. At least 40% never graduate at all. If you are a student classified as a demographic minority, the chances of completing your college degree are even lower. Only thirty eight percent of African American students (46% of women and 35% of men) will complete their degree. Hispanic students do a bit better with a 46% completion rate. As a comparison, 62% of white students complete their degrees in six-years while Asian students perform the best with a 63% completion rate.

Are you the first in your family to go to college? Congratulations! But sadly, around half of you won’t finish. Do you come from a lower income family? Although government resources help, not having all the money you need is a significant hindrance as only 43% of you will graduate. Were you raised in a foster family? Your completion rate trails the entire field at only 14%.

There are many reasons for this. Money is perhaps the biggest one. Many underfunded students soon learn that they don’t have the resources to complete a four-year degree without an unwanted overwhelming debt burden. Many students get full and part time jobs while in college, but having multiple part-time jobs, or even just one full-time job, can be detrimental. The workplace culture soon supersedes the academic culture and next thing you know, classes are skipped, assignments are missed, and academic woes just pile on.

Since we are discussing money, not surprisingly, students attending private colleges have a better completion rate than their public-school counterparts (66% to 59%). Private schools, with a higher tuition and reduced class size, tend to be more nurturing. The professor may reach out to the students who seem to be fading away. Support services are more attentive too. The lines should be shorter to talk to whichever student support specialist is needed. It may not seem like much, but it helps.

The “For Profit” schools probably do more harm than good. For those of you, or someone you know, who is enticed by one of these heavily advertised universities, note that if you enroll, less than one in four of you will actually complete. They can also be expensive. Most “For Profits” make it easy to enroll and even easier borrow money. Whether or not you complete your degree, if you borrow money to  go there, or any other college, you need to pay it back. And if you fail to graduate and have a lot of debt….ouch! Not good.

Sorry to ruin the upcoming graduation party, but college can certainly be a case of “let the buyer beware.”  Whereas we would all like to think that attending college is certainly different than buying a used car, in many ways it is not. The buyer’s euphoria to find a good deal on a car might mask the deficiencies the used vehicle may have. It car might start out smoothly, but it is highly possible that as the years go on the flaws show themselves. And if you don’t thoroughly “check under the hood” before you buy it, the problems might arise more quickly.

Future college students and their families really need to “check under the hood” of the colleges they are considering attending. Check the graduation and retention rates. Investigate the advising systems in place. Kick the tires too while you are at it. Visit the campus. Talk to administrators and faculty. Make sure your future student will be well positioned to succeed and graduate. And perhaps most important, take a realistic view of the amount of debt that will be incurred. The truth may hurt, but a smart decision beforehand should help to prevent the pain of debt without graduation.

To the 50% or so that our truly graduating, all the best. Congratulations on your accomplishment. It’s a good one. Hopefully, the college taught you how to make smart decisions. Something that will serve you well in the years to come.