Freshmen Value Money Over Philosophy

College students are more interested in making money than ever before and less interested in developing a personal take on life, according to a national survey of incoming freshmen’s attitudes and priorities. College freshmen who desire to be well-off financially reached a 13-year-high at 73.8 percent, the American Freshman Survey reports. The study, which was released by the University of California at Los Angeles, has been conducted for 38 years and is the longest-running survey of its kind. This year’s study surveyed 267,449 students at 413 colleges and universities and was statistically adjusted to reflect the 1.2 million full-time freshmen entering all four-year colleges and universities in 2003. The rising trend to be financially sound is attributed to several major changes, including a steady rise in students’ desire to raise a family. The survey showed that a record 74.8 percent of freshmen have a desire to raise a family. “I think that is the most important thing when looking at the student’s interest in making money,” said Karen Gallagher, dean of the Rossier School of Education. “If you’re going to raise a family, then it is pretty essential to have some kind of financial stability,” she said. Students also have to deal with the rising cost of education, as many are staying in school longer and taking out more loans to pay for the high prices of higher learning. “In California public schools alone, there is a 40 percent increase in tuition, and that’s a big increase,” Gallagher said. Students who see this rise in tuition as well as a rise in student debt are put in a position where they have to think about becoming financially successful, Gallagher said. Linda Sax, professor of education at UCLA and the director of the survey, agrees. “It is true that society has a preoccupation and a fascination with people with money,” Sax said. The desire to acquire money was compared with the fact that students’ desire to “develop a meaningful philosophy of life” hit its lowest point, as only 39.3 percent of freshmen see this as a priority. However, the increase in a desire to make money is not necessarily the reason for the decline. They point to the very fast-paced nature of student life as one of the primary culprits. “Life is just so fast, I don’t think we give students a chance to breathe,” Sax said. “They just don’t have the time to reflect.” Some students said that they already had a philosophy on life coming into school. “I think that it’s already there,” said Samantha Turchin, a freshman majoring in English. “I think that my philosophy on life was developed at an early age, so there isn’t a need to really search for another.” In addition, experts said the competitive nature of getting into a university, demonstrated by all-time highs of 46.6 percent of students earning “A” averages and 83.1 percent engaging in volunteer work, gives students less time to develop a “meaningful philosophy.” As students go through school, however, their viewpoints and priorities change, becoming less interested in money and more concerned with other issues. Upperclassmen who saw the freshmen survey agreed that their priorities have changed. “Morals, health and education would be the priorities on my list,” said Chi So, a senior majoring in computer science. “Being in school you grow in wisdom, experience, and you also learn from other students’ takes on life,” So said.