College: 20 Years Later

It seems like only yesterday, but 1994 grads might not recognize their school

Fewer grad assistants, more adjunct lecturers. Fewer liberal arts majors, more made up-sounding majors. Fewer papers, more group projects. Yes, things have certainly changed on college campuses since 1994. Three experts who have more experience with college than our average reader has years under his belt helped us learn how:

Insight from Steven Roy Goodman, MS, JD, educational consultant and admissions strategist,, in Washington, D.C.:
Practical picks
“My students are much more focused on the connection between their studies and their post-college lives than they were 20 years ago. Students have always been concerned, of course, but the shift in public views about education (public good to private benefit) has seeped deeper into the student psyche.”

Part-time profs
“Today’s students have more classes with fewer full professors (and more part-time adjuncts). The economics of higher education have encouraged universities to hire more adjuncts. If you go back to 1975, approximately 30 percent of faculty were part time. Now, it’s more than 50 percent.”

Change your mind, pay the price
“Depending on which survey you believe, 50 to 70 percent of college students change majors. In my experience, this estimate is bit high. As students incur more and more debt to pay their tuition bills, larger numbers are picking educational paths and then sticking to them.”

A break won’t break you
“More students are taking a gap year between high school and college (exploration, time off, work to save money for college). I am generally supportive of gap years. Besides being potentially interesting and intellectually expanding, they can give many students the ability to think through their college and career paths without the day-to-day responsibilities of multiple high school courses. In the same way that time off can be helpful for adults hoping to recharge their batteries, gap years can do the same for adolescents.”

From Gregory T. Schmutte, Ph.D, vice president for institutional effectiveness at American International College,, and professor of psychology in Springfield, Mass.:
Group think
“Group projects are much more common in the curriculum now than in the past where the typical grading mechanism consisted of a mid-term and a final exam. There is much more emphasis on alternatives such as group projects because it is recognized that success in the work place often requires effectively working in groups. Additionally, the literature on academic assessment indicates that multiple forms of assessment are preferred to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in a number of different contexts.”

In with the internship
“Traditionally, there were a limited number of programs that provided students with internship opportunities. More recently, almost all programs provide internship opportunities, many with multiple opportunities beginning as early as the freshman year. The belief is that these internships better familiarize the student with the world of work in general, and their chosen fields, particularly. Often times, internships
lead to direct job offers upon graduation.”

Amenities galore
“To attract students to live on campus, more and more amenities are being provided including apartment-style housing, increased food options, fitness facilities, recreational activities, and technological access. Students no longer seem to be content with a square room, three meals per day at designated times and places with little variety, and a gym for basketball that’s available to the general student population on a limited basis.”
Watch out for cheaters
“Cheating seems to have increased as students are increasingly more likely to attend college to get a better job only and therefore have less respect for the academic process.”

From Pam Rambo, Ed.D, higher education consultant, Rambo Research and Consulting,, in Williamsburg:
Majorly specific
“There are more interdisciplinary programs and designer degrees where the student literally designs their degree. Majors are more specific. A student 20 years ago could have chosen criminal justice or administration of justice. Now she could major in homeland security or international terrorism or forensic accounting … I am seeing trends toward double majors and minors being much more common … Students today are much more likely to engage in original research. Twenty years ago, that was for graduate students. Students also seem to be more aware that they will likely need to return for more training or graduate work.”

No fibbing, please
“Another big change for today’s student is that if he tells a professor he almost has a project completed, his professor can say to him on the spot, ‘send me what you have.’ Students can no longer string a professor along with promises that work is done or nearly done.”

Keeping it real
“Learning and experiencing more about the world has increased and in many cases is now required. Colleges strongly encourage study abroad programs and internships. You see more high school students in internships today as well. Even classwork in a traditional classroom can be more real-world based. It is not unusual to see undergraduate students doing research in partnership with NASA or industry.”

Yummy for the tummy
“Food options include a huge array of on-campus meal plans and dining cards where students can charge meals at local public eateries. The fare in dining halls includes gourmet options, and it is not unusual to see a commercial fast food vendor in the campus food court. Dining services are sometimes offered by high-end providers like Marriott.”

A helping hand
“Students today have many options that help them succeed. They can take advantage of a range of academic help that includes organized tutorial programs as well as math labs and writing labs. Some colleges are getting very proactive. One student received a note with his acceptance that the college noticed that he had struggled in math in high school, and they had already identified a math tutor for him.”

Categories: Special Ad Section