Yahoo News, as part of its "Born Digital" series, asked students and parents to write about how college has changed over a generation. Here's one perspective.
FIRST PERSON | The year is 2013, and it seems high-school students are beginning to see college as their end game more than ever. For many, maybe this shouldn't be the case.
My name is Mark Evans, a current graduate student of Fairfield University in Connecticut. I entered Fairfield as an undergraduate in September 2009, and graduated in May 2013 with a bachelor's of science degree in both accounting and finance. I am 22, and I am on track to receive my master's of science in accounting from the Fairfield University School of Business in May 2014.
As a student who financed a very expensive education entirely through student loans and grants, I have learned how college costs affect the entire college experience. Fairfield is not cheap; you can see the breakdown here, where the full cost is well more than $50,000 per year.
With costs so astronomically high, one would think a student investing at least four years of his life, a lot of money, and countless hours of work and stress would have a good grip on goals and where he wants to be in life. Colleges today, compared to my parents' generation, are too expensive to justify figuring everything out along the way. I have learned this lesson in a very personal way, and I am extremely grateful that I did.
My mother briefly attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the early 1980s without much of a concrete plan as to what she wanted to study, what she wanted to accomplish, and where she wanted to end up after school. She left the university, but was not financially crippled by her experiment in college.
Today, I don't know that this could happen.
College loans carry some serious interest for those like me who did not receive significant academic scholarships and had to finance their education largely through debt. For each of my four years as an undergraduate, I borrowed around $20,000 per year to pursue my work in business school.
I was a very average student in high school, but quickly realized that this was no longer an option at the price I was paying at Fairfield. I would love to now be a debt-free graduate student pursuing a career in public accounting; however, knowing that I truly had to make my college experience all it could be gave me exactly the kick start that I needed.
Because of the pressure that was my debt, I chose to study accounting and finance, two areas where there always seem to be plenty of jobs. I became highly involved on campus to boost my resume, and eventually became vice president of the student body. It was also a priority of mine to have multiple internships during my undergraduate career to assure that I would be ready to enter the "real world" when the time came to pay off my loans.
Had I been in a different era where higher education was not quite as expensive, I don't know that I would be where I am today: a college graduate on track to have my MSA in 2014 and studying for my CPA examinations. The constant reminder of future loan payments pushed me through school and made me a better person for it.
For many, like me, the high cost of school can be just what is needed to motivate a young adult. Unfortunately, for others, not even this is enough.