Why are students at college?


University of Kentucky students gather in the Gatton College of Business and Economics building during the first day of classes on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Savannah Garnett, Reporter

UK students and faculty agree that the culture of college is changing.

An undergraduate degree used to be perceived as the end of education. For most careers, it was the maximum level needed in a profession. The Harvard Business Review found that in the year 2015, only 16% of production supervisors had a college degree, but 67% of their job openings required one.

Now, however, members of the UK campus community said the minimum education required is an undergraduate degree when competing for a career. Job security is starting to depend on much more than a college education.

“For the most part, I do believe you have to have a college degree or some form of higher education to have a career,” freshman Brett Conder said.

Marissa Milligan, a freshman nursing major, had a similar opinion.

“You really can’t get a job or higher paying job without a college degree,” Milligan said.

The reason for coming to college is changing, though, and it is for more than a job. Kathy Garcia, a sophomore political science major, said that she thinks there are different types of students with different goals for their time in college.

“Some people are here for school, and then people are here to say they went to college,” Garcia said.

Lewis Honors College Senior Lecturer Eric Welch described going to college as “now the expectation.”

“For our parents, it (college) really did matter. It did give them a leg up in the competition; now it’s like the rule.” Welch said. “I think we’ve really reinforced the narrative that to get a job, college is the first step, and that really is true for a significant number of jobs.”

Sydney Conley, a freshman psychology major, said that going to college has been associated with success.

“I think this generation views college as a requirement to have a career or be viewed as successful,” Conley said.

Young adults feel that going to college is the right direction for starting a career; however, some students believe that more is needed to have security than just a degree. It is often that experiences and connections are required and even valued more.

Also, some students are going into industries that require additional training and specialized education.

“To have a career in my field, I need lots of prior medical experience, higher college education, research opportunities and connections,” Allie Hill, a neuroscience and psychology major, said.

Other students attend college for personal reasons.

“For me, it’s for family reasons,” Hadija Hamisi, a junior family science major, said. “Everyone in my family went to college. It was an automatic requirement for me, and I hope to get a job.”

Students are not the only ones who understand that there is a type of pressure to go to college. Professors are seeing more and more students coming to college because they believe that it is the most efficient way to have a career.

“I think that sometimes for students, it (college) feels like a goal that has to be met so that they can move on to the next goal. And that’s probably driven by, you know, the competitive nature of academia … I wish students could just stop and smell the roses a little bit, so to speak, and just kind of dive into the things they care about,” family sciences professor Alexander Elswick said.