Do it for the right reasons

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

April 2, 2008 Ed Cartoon

With fewer students taking a fifth year in high school, universities are seeing their four-year bachelor degrees become five, six and sometimes even seven-year programs.

Though it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for the change, some reasons could be hesitation to enter the workforce, university’s comfortable social atmosphere, real or perceived credential inflation, and the larger social trends that put more emphasis on education.

Nowadays many university students are aiming to get the “perfect job” " the one that fits their degree like a glove. Unfortunately, there are not many jobs that will pay you to write essays about Gulliver’s Travels, so students are often left looking for work in fields unrelated to their expertise.

University can also become a safety net. With the wide variety of clubs and activities offered by Western and other schools, it is easy for a student to find a snug niche among like-minded people. The prospect of leaving this environment behind brings scary thoughts of “growing up” and entering the real world, with all its related responsibilities and stresses.

The inflation of credentials has also led some students to spend an extra year or two broadening their degree(s). While so many people now have a bachelor’s degree, many feel pressure to buttress their resumés or graduate with more than one major.

Perhaps too proud to climb the ladder in the working world, students may also expect that by earning more academic credits they will be more likely to get a desired position without having to do a couple years of dirty work.

But the blame should not be entirely on students. Parents tend to coddle their children and relieve the pressure of important practical decision-making. The result is a growing number of twenty-somethings who lack motivation and who are used to their parents running their lives.

While adding a few extra years to a degree may lessen its prestige, some students find it is still the best option, whether it is because their first year was a time for social transition rather than studying, or because they cannot decide in which direction to take their studies.

Even if someone is taking seven years to finish an arts degree, they will still be walking away with more knowledge than they had previously.

Although some come back to undergraduate study for the wrong reasons, others choose to return with the hope of improving their future job prospects.

Luckily for those who wish to return for a victory lap, university administration is only too happy to oblige as the tuition dollars are filling the university’s coffers.

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