Written by Joanna Hughes

There’s no denying being a student has its fair share of challenges. However, do today’s students have it better than their predecessors? A recent flurry of media attention on the state of student life suggests 'yes'! Here’s a closer look at seven advantages enjoyed by today's university students.

 

1. More students all over the world are going to college

The Conversation reported on a decade-long university boom due in part to the introduction of “demand-driven funding”, which allows universities to enroll unlimited numbers of domestic undergraduate students. Between 2007 and 2017, the number of students starting bachelor's degrees spiked by 45 percent. The enrollment surge is also accompanied by an increase in students in need of help. As such, experts are calling on universities to step up support measures for such students. 

A similar phenomenon is underway among teenage students in England and Scotland, according to The Independent. Although while young students in both countries are now more likely to attend university than ever before, the same can’t be said for their older counterparts, nor for EU nationals seeking to study in the UK. 

A recent report in The Economist underscored the importance of going to university for young people -- even as the financial returns of college attainment decrease. 

2. College may be getting easier

While today’s students are hitting the books less than their predecessors, their GPAs are higher, according to a report by The Atlantic. Experts attribute this to several possible factors, including that schools have gotten better at helping students. 

3. Equality is on the rise at universities -- but there’s more work to be done

A Time magazine piece by law professor Daniel Markovitz, author of The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite, highlighted a growing trend at elite American universities to admit more poor and middle-class students on comprehensive financial aid. Still, they are vastly outnumbered by their privileged counterparts who are more likely to have better outcomes. Markovitz proposes, “Education must become less hierarchical and less meritocratic; and the top schools must become less elite.“

According to a roundup of surprising facts about college by Susan Greene, the number of girls going to college significantly out-numbers the boys: 1,575,000 female students enroll every year compared to 775,000 male students. This may also be problematic, according to Greene, because male applicants may end up receiving preferential treatment. 

4. Today’s college students have more technological resources 

According to Business Insider, today’s students have access to more technological benefits than their parents, including internet access, mobile devices, laptops, and social media. It is important to note, however, that while technology is largely viewed as advantageous, it can also be a distraction. 

Technology-enabled online learning trends are also changing the landscape of higher education, according to eCampus News. Key factors impacting online learning include app-based learning, microlearning, learning videos, mobile learning, gamification, and virtual and augmented reality.

According to the American Psychological Association, these varied approaches aren’t just nice, but necessary when it comes to engaging millennial learners. Specifically, experts are calling for multimedia classes, less formal learning environments, coursework that connects lessons to the real world, and more creative work. “Millennials seem to be more experiential and exploratory learners, so they really seem to benefit from the personalization and customization of assignments,” said psychology professor Sheryl Hartman. 

5. Cultural diversity is also growing 

Business Insider also reported student populations have undergone a major demographic shift over the past half-century. Between 1970 and 2018, minority enrollments climbed from 15 percent to 42 percent. 

This diversity will continue to be a huge benefit for students in the workplace and throughout their lives, reported Her Campus. University assistant director and career counselor Sarah Reifer said, “[Millennials] have a heightened level of social and civic awareness. Through the internet especially, we’re exposed to so many different ways of thinking.” Anna, a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, added of her own experiences at university, “I’ve been exposed to an incredibly diverse, rich population that has allowed me to expand my worldview past what I learned in my small, 99-percent-Caucasian town.” 

6. More students are traveling and it’s becoming more important for them to do so 

Speaking of new perspectives, travel continues to be one of the best ways to broaden your worldview. “Now, more than ever, it is becoming increasingly important for college students to go abroad. Our world is growing in its demand for globally-minded people, and one of the best ways to achieve this is through travel and exploration,” wrote The Kay Days editor-in-chief Kay Rodriguez in HuffPost

So if you love travel, you’ve got plenty of good reasons to do so. In the process, you will also be helping to change the travel industry to suit even more travelers like you, according to a report from The Atlantic. 

7. Campuses have undergone major upgrades

While dorm rooms may not have appeared to have changed much at first glance, they have more amenities than they did in the past. Campus facilities and amenities, meanwhile, have undergone a serious transformation. “The look of the campus and its facilities are big selling points for many colleges: hotel-like swimming pools, state-of-the-art fitness centers, restaurants, movie theaters, rock-climbing walls, game rooms, etc. Think resort features more than ivy-covered libraries and study halls,” adds Susan Greene. Greene also points out more extensive dining hours at college cafeterias, including many 24-7 and to-go options.

With exams and coursework deadlines, it’s a given university life isn’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows. The next time you’ve got the urge to dwell on 'how bad you’ve got it', it might help to take a moment to reflect on the many great things 21st-century college students have going for them...

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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