Today’s Students Demand More Out Of College Life

The needs of students are constantly changing and keeping up with those trends is essential for maintaining quality campus life at universities nationwide. That was the main point of a live 90-minute videoconference entitled “Student Trends: Addressing the Needs and Expectations of Today’s College Students” presented at the University of West Florida on Oct. 16. The goal of the project was to provide important insights and perspectives on today’s students. Contemporary student values, interests, issues, concerns and student life expectations were discussed during the conference. “It is important for the University to be abreast of the latest thinking about student trends and needs,” said Jim Hurd, assistant vice president for Student Life. “It helps us continue to provide for the services, programs and facilities that contribute to quality campus life.” The National Association of College Auxiliary Services and the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International presented the program. The conference took place at Northern State University in South Dakota and was broadcast to more than 60 universities. The panel of five guest speakers from universities across the country presented their information and answered questions from the viewers. The interactive program was broadcast onto a projection screen, and provided audience members with a toll-free number, a fax number and e-mail address to ask questions to the panel members. The conference informed the viewers about several statistics from the National Center for Educational Statistics. It is estimated that there will be 17.7 million students by 2012, an increase of 15 percent from 2000. The greatest increase will be in the 18-24 age group. There will be more community college, metropolitan and working students and these students will bring about rising expectations. Students will want more amenities, more flexibility in class schedules, and will be more consumer-oriented. Eileen Hulme, vice president for student affairs at Baylor University, said students are more achievement-oriented. Students have increased expectations of high grades and financial well-being after graduation. The students are also more authority-oriented because of their parents’ influence. More parents are involved in getting their child into college, choosing classes and deciding where they should live. Steven Ransom, director of student activities and organizational leadership at Miami University, informed viewers of changing campus demographics. Students have had a declining interest in politics over the last 10 years, and interest will continue to decline. The number of drinkers and smokers has dropped from 82 percent in 1982 to 46 percent in 2002. There is also less work being done concerning issues of the environment and race relations, he said. Chris Flynn, director of counseling and career development at Loyola University in New Orleans, said there are a greater number of students with psychological problems and on medication for these problems. There has been a large increase since Sept. 11, 2001. Of the 1,500 students surveyed, 6.1 percent were taking medication and 11.8 percent had taken prescriptions for psychological problems. Over five years, 83 percent of counseling directors have seen an increase in the number of students on prescription drugs. Flynn also said there has been an increase in the number of students receiving counseling. A majority of those students are satisfied with their experience and have maintained or improved academic performance. Counseled students also show a higher rate of retention than those students who have received no counseling. David Stephen, director of residence life and housing at the University of Akron, informed the audience on how student trends are identified and confirmed. Many focus groups are conducted, and student consumer trends are looked at. Competition among universities exists, and finding out what competitors are doing to bring students to their school is the best way to find out what students want. Since more parents are college-educated, they are pushing their children to be more involved. Therefore, universities across the country are adapting to the changing needs and wants of the students.