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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

The modern student’s higher education experience

Being a student has always been an experience of great reward and immense chaos. By nature, education is designed to challenge us, to drive us to improving ourselves and our awareness and knowledge of the world around us. It has always done this. It does this now. It will continue to achieve this notion. But when it comes to the modern student and their experience with higher education, what it comes down to more than anything else is if a student can make a living while studying full-time. There are of course students who are lucky enough to be given a scholarship (therefore forfeiting financial fees for school), be close enough to home to still live there while studying, or even be hired on campus for jobs to undertake during their time as a student. But for the majority, earning a living is something that is not negotiable for them. This is the reality of higher education in this modern age. Life is expensive, students earn minimum wage. But how are they balancing it all? How can they stay afloat?

Balancing university with work can be difficult. Modern students are most often working while studying, and they can often inadvertently end up missing classes in favour of taking on additional shifts. This is a problem because students who study the traditional way are forced to choose between affording student life (even if it is the bare minimum end of the spectrum of student life), and potentially losing precious scores, with the risk of resulting in course failure. A double-edged sword of a choice, students are unfortunately often burned, one way or the other. Bound by their reality, it is something that thousands, even millions, of students struggle with on the daily, but thankfully there are innovations in motion that are poised to change the tides. In fact, they already are. But the fact remains that one positive shift cannot solely carry the weight of a viable solution. More must be done. But alas, progress is progress, nonetheless.

The answer to modern students’ bare survival in an ever-demanding set of circumstances lies in improvements to the education sector around the world, collectively. In large part thanks to technological developments in education (like the introduction of IT security courses online, digital learning materials, and recorded lectures and tutorial practices) the modern student has more grasp to fit in shifts that can earn them a decent income, while also maintaining their academic integrity. The introduction of online education to the worldwide academic sector was one that fundamentally changed the tide for the better. Now, more than ever, students that must work to earn a living have been given the chance on a silver platter to work their studies in around their shifts, and not the other way around. Not only has this lifted the weight of financial independence being coupled with academic success in the wakes of higher education, but it has broken down the barrier, allowing more individuals to enrol in the first place.

Even with the digitalisation of the academic sector around the world, there is an innate realisation that this remains an ongoing problem. Life today continues to get busier and more expensive, and for the students who are not lucky enough to live near enough to home, or be living on campus, they must work to afford rent, bills, food, gas, etc. This is the reality for an increasing number of students in this modern age, and it is likely to be for future generations as well. Online education is a brilliant start, but more must be done, for long-lived impact to be felt. Innovation in the education industry is nothing alien to us, but it is something takes some getting used to sometimes. For some students, finding the perfect balance for their personal experience can be a grinding, difficult challenge to surpass. It takes time, effort, patience, and understanding. And determination. Lots of stubborn determination.

Historically, the higher education system has been quite demanding. The world of higher education has always been a challenging one. It is no secret that students in this modern age are more likely to have to balance work and study to earn a living. What may come as a surprise, however, is the sheer volume of students who opt to go to work and skip a class, rather than miss out on a shift. Now, with the introduction of online learning capabilities, and the necessity of students having to work to earn a living, the education system we are familiar with today is vastly different to the one that existed even twenty years ago. The modern student’s higher education experience is one of weaving and carefully navigating the delicate between obtaining academic success, and ensuring financial safety (or even just survival). This is the reality. So, we must be asking the question, “what do we do to fix it, now?”. It is a loaded question, for sure, but it is one that must be answered, all the same.

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