U.S. & World

Paying for the party: how a major university failed and derailed its freshmen


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  • JohnnyEl Paso El Paso, AR
    Nov. 27, 2013 12:11 p.m.

    My mom died after my first year of college. I went to a state university to get away from abuse by my father, who said I was stupid and a know-it-all if I were around him too much. I realized my father loved me, but he was resentful about his life. He dropped out of high school in the 10th grade after his father died to help on the family dairy farm. I had to use most of the money my father's uncle gave for my college education to pay on a farm loan. I worked very hard in college, but struggled with a fear that God was using grades to punish me because I saw God in the way I saw my father.

    A child may not be able to get help that could help them. They could be falsely accused of not trying when they struggle in classes.. The problem could be intrusive thoughts with PTSD, OCD or another illness that interferes with a student'a ability to learn.

    It is also a challenge to work two jobs and go to college when others party and interrupt your studyimg.

  • Burghmom Pleasant Grove, Utah
    Nov. 27, 2013 6:45 a.m.

    The Rock,

    The advice from your father (post above) is VERY good.

    I am an educator, as well as my husband. We advised our children and one got full scholarship at BYU because he tests well, but the other two worked very hard their first semester and got full scholarship after that. It is difficult to keep those one year scholarships, but our daughter did it for her whole time at BYU. She went into English, and even though her dream job is to write books, she took an editing minor because you can get a job in it. She has actually enjoyed it and got a good job but is writing her novel on the side. Our other son also worked hard his first semester and got a full scholarship after that, which he still has.

    Both of the last two kids looked at their scholarship as their job, but after working hard for a couple of years and doing well, were able to also get internships that pay but are also a great asset to their degree.

    BYU has tons of resources to help students. I am sure many universities do, but most students don't take advantage.

  • TheWalker Saratoga Springs, UT
    Nov. 24, 2013 6:47 p.m.

    Interesting that this article and the research involved focused solely on women. I suspect that the men going to this and other schools encountered the same challenges. Why are we only concerned about the women?

  • Baron Scarpia Logan, UT
    Nov. 24, 2013 6:48 a.m.

    I just read another story about how students often choose the wrong major because they "perceived" that a degree from accounting or engineering will bring them more money over time -- but then, they're miserable.

    The biggest challenge I see with young people is that they don't know what they want to do with their lives and then years in college seeking classes and potential majors they like. That's actually a good thing.

    Before then, however, "savvy" parents need to discuss career opportunities with their kids at an early age so that it is instilled early on "what" needs to be done to obtain such goals. Kids need to be engaged in extracurricular activities by middle school to build their social skills and expose them to opportunities and career paths beyond what they see everyday (e.g., reality TV or YouTube star).

    They also need to know that a degree is just one dimension of their total "product" -- they need to build unique skills that can help them land those unexpected career paths that may not even exist yet (e.g., social media manager is a hot job that didn't exist a decade ago).

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    Nov. 21, 2013 8:13 p.m.

    Don't measure the success of higher education only by career preparation. We need highly educated citizens know who to vote for and how to raise their own children. Our most valuable educators are parents, not professors. We need leaders, creators, dreamers, and artists of every kind and in every profession and trade. Graduates with broad exposure to the fine arts, literature, religion, philosophy, and other "soft" subjects will probably enjoy a higher quality of life.

  • haggie Visalia, CA
    Nov. 21, 2013 11:00 a.m.

    Administrators, its all about the money, blah blah blah blah blah blah. It always someone elses fault nowdays. Its time to own up to our own decisions.The bottom line is our individual value system. If you want to do well in school then you will focus on that. I am quite certain there were also success stories in the same environment.

    My parents were not college educated. I was certainly not headed that way myself. But eventually I realized I would be better off college educated. I chose a career I was interested in. After two years at a junior college earning fair grades, off to the state university (all low cost options in California) where I did well and earned a Bachelors and Masters degree. It could have been a worthless experience had I chosen that, but I chose to succeed. That was my influence not a bunch of floozies in dorm, money hungry administrators, or a worthless education....

  • BlueHusky Mission Viejo, CA
    Nov. 21, 2013 5:04 a.m.

    I went to BYU for 3 semesters, ran out of money. My parents had moved from Boise to Vancouver BC. When I left BYU, penniless, I drove my old Dodge from Provo to Vancouver at 50 MPH. I couldn't work in Vancouver, so I moved in with my brother in Seattle, got a job at Boeing, and transferred to the University of Washington, worked swing shift. I was a pre-med majoring in Zoology, taking chemistry, physics, biology. I went straight through the year, working all along, with no parental help. I never took more than 8 or 10 hours. I got a masters in Plant Physiology and a PhD in forest systems ecology. I had zero student loan debt. I later taught at Yale. I saw the rich undergrads drinking martinis at Morey's. Think George W. Bush.

    It is probably impossible to self-fund an education at major universities today. But a degree says something about you. Get it where you can afford it. And try to study something useful. Many majors are useless. If you have a talent, major in that. At least you'll enjoy school. It won't matter after you get your first job.

  • murrow phoenix, AZ
    Nov. 11, 2013 3:36 p.m.

    Maybe it's been a while since I graduated from college or maybe it's been almost as long since I sent out a resume (own a company), but I don't recall ever being asked my college GPA. Seems to me that a resume is about skills and experience. Perhaps these kids can benefit more from some real world experience while in college. If I was hiring a person who claimed his skills included getting an A in an Atmospheric Sciences and my business wasn't about selling clouds, I wouldn't care.

    There are people with and without college degrees who are successes and failures. Perhaps parents and primary schools need to better prepare these kids for adulthood rather than relying on the colleges to do it.

  • Strider303 Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 11, 2013 5:35 a.m.

    To be real, college i.e., four or more years at a college or university, education is over sold and one would do better to work at almost any job out of high school, or enlist in the military service for a tour, to find out what you want and what you are capable of doing.

    The experiences of those years will help anyone refine choices and define goals. Those experiences will also motivate you to succeed. While I am LDS and have served a mission, and am on a second one with my wife, I am not sure a mission can provide the same life experiences as my aforementioned suggestion.

    So a young person serves an LDS mission, works a one or two years or enlists in active military or Guard and then reviews education or training goals, I think the choices will be different and more seasoned and mature than an 18 year-old embarking on college with immature ideas of life and goals, and racking up a $10,000 plus debt for every year of "finding themselves".

    Colleges would have to market their product differently for the older wiser student.

  • wwookie Payson, UT
    Nov. 11, 2013 4:16 a.m.

    Universities are for-profit enterprises no matter how you try to spin it. Even the state schools and religious private schools. The administrators study demographics, hire marketing experts and do what they can to brand their school to a specific customer base.

    It is surprising that the large majority of americans wrongly believe that obtaining a college degree in and of itself means success. They believe that you obtain the degree and then figure out what to do with it later. How many students change majors midway through? The number is ridiculous.

    One solution is to improve the career counseling at high schools.

  • redshirt007 tranquility base, 00
    Nov. 11, 2013 2:26 a.m.

    I've known some pretty wealthy families and their kids ALWAYS end up doing very well.

    It's a sad joke for anyone to be naive enough to believe that money and influence don't matter yet when certain people see a person struggling financially they just assume the person hasn't worked hard enough.

    When was the last time you said to yourself, " My boss makes more money than I do because he just works so much harder." Rare indeed.

    Many of my friends partied their way through college on their parent's dime and are STILL doing better than this guy that had to find his own way and join the military.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 10:32 p.m.

    Summary: No matter how bad you screw up, you'll be just fine as long as mummy and daddy are rich.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 9:55 p.m.

    So there was an actual study, hopefully not wasting taxpayer money in any way, to find out that who you know is more important than what you know. I mean, I watched School Ties, didn't these guys? The spoiled rich brat could get into Harvard or Yale because Daddy could get him in no matter what, even if he was a bad student or violated the rich boarding school's honor code. Sound familiar. I'm sure the same applies in college. Rich boys and girls can party all the time, get shabby GPA's and still get a job at Daddy's company or for some buddy of Daddy. Next, these guys will tell me the sky is blue. Again, I hope we didn't pay for this study of the obvious.

  • DN Subscriber 2 SLC, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 9:37 p.m.

    @ Real Achiever- Congratulations on making many GOOD choices, thus far.

    However, I think you will eventually find that some choices may prove to be flawed. You need to especially consider the noble sounding "...wanted to help others find their way in the world without fear of persecution for their religious and/or political beliefs." Perhaps an equally noble but more beneficial goal would be to help people through a career in medicine to fix physical problems. Or, even a life of service to others in a religious order that has taken vows of poverty- or do it on your own without the religious part.

    Eventually you may discover there is quite a bit of truth in the statement often (but wrongly) attributed to Winston Churchill:
    "Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains."

    Also, there is nothing wrong with getting married and popping out babies in a married two parent household where the parents can support them.

  • Owl Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 4:29 p.m.

    Having an excellent education, a profession and yes, babies are not mutually exclusive. The objective of the article is that in the real world, low effort generally brings low reward and that spending on an empty degree is not a good investment.

  • jzer Haworth, OK
    Nov. 10, 2013 4:25 p.m.

    Agree totally with DGA28. For most students college is a racket. Richard Branson recently wrote an article (I think it was for yahoo) in which he indicated that one of the last things he is concerned about when hiring is what degree the applicant got. In many cases employers want capable people who are problem solvers and can work well with, or lead, others. In addition, in a report I read a few months back it stated that a college education is completely unnecessary in 85% of all existing jobs in the US labor market. I got a 4 year degree. I own and operate a $1 million dollar poultry farm. A college degree is completely unnecessary in my line of work, and again, in many others. How much does the bankrupt us gov spend on financial aid for students to get unnecessary degrees? If I were going back to when I was 19, I would definitely look much harder at vocational, or technical degrees (1 or 2 year) but would absolutely not waste my time and money on the powder puff business degree I got.

  • JBQ Saint Louis, MO
    Nov. 10, 2013 9:30 a.m.

    How is Indiana University any different than every major Midwestern state university. The University of Missouri, for instance, is the same. And! These universities reach out to the party class. So what! Gardens and waterfalls are bad? Rec centers are bad? Climbing walls are bad? What about life long learning? These are young women who will soon be having babies. Feminism and class warfare are not all there is. You can only have so many women Marines to break down class values. You can never have enough babies. Actually, the reproduction rate has fallen below zero and two children. Education has many values. If you wanted to have a "nose to the grindstone" approach for every student, you would have two students on campus-you and I.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 9:27 a.m.

    An additional correction: the graphic has the two schools interchanged. (Not to mention "Souther" and "Source: ???".)

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 8:39 a.m.

    I wonder if this is the first time it occurred to Armstrong and Hamilton that parents who are "savvy" to the workings of academia might confer advantages to their children? Apparently so, since according to the article, these were "surprising discoveries".

    If that is the case then I would suggest these two not be considered very savvy themselves. These "discoveries" from their research seem awfully non-surprising to anyone who has observed not just the results of an exposure by young women of different economic strata to college life, but life in general.

    It seems an indisputable fact that we humans depend enormously on the wisdom and guidance of adults in our life, hopefully our parents. It is also clear that the most effective means of teaching children is within a stable, healthy family environment. It is therefore stunningly obvious that the accelerating loss of such an environment for en ever increasing percentage of children (48% of children are now born out of marriage than within and over 50% to women under 30) is an ominous indication of our present and future.

    So, yes, it's true. Savvy parent CAN help children in college....and everywhere else.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    Nov. 10, 2013 8:32 a.m.

    Kids from disadvantaged families have little or no guidance. Their parents not only have never been to college, they many not even know how to get into college.

    My father, a high school councilor, advised me not to take more than 12 credit hours, and zero really tough courses in my first semester at BYU. Many kids bite off more than they can chew and wash out. Once you have some experience at the university level, and know expectations better, then you can load up. In my senior year I carried 18 credit hours and challenged three other courses for a total of 24 credit hours that semester.

    A friend and executive with a major corporation advised his kids to find the smartest person in each class, sit next to them and study with them.

    One of his kids went to the math lab to do him math homework, the english lab for English, etc. His grades were so high that BYU went to him and offered him a scholarship.

    My father further advised me to look at the employ-ability of my major. Make sure you can get a job in that field.

  • DGA28 Monticello, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 8:20 a.m.

    Generally speaking higher education is a racket, designed to extract money out of kids and parents to support the elistest education society, for as long as possible. Utah is not immune. Can you say differential tuition at USU? Many of the degrees offered are worthless in the real world but the universities will tell you how great they are. Universities keep adding to requirements to graduate to keep getting your money, i.e. Why does getting into law school take a Bacelors degree? Rex Lee pushed the university departments to make it so a student could actually get the degree in 4 years. It meet with resistance and once he died, they started adding more requirements.

  • XelaDave Salem, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 8:03 a.m.

    Two points. Surprise surprise- being born on the right side of the tracks has more to do with your success than basically anything else I am shocked. Second this is what happens to universities when the faculty stop running them and full time administrators start making all the decisions. These people make their money and attain job mobility by how much tuition money they bring in- they could care less about students and have no ability to even know if a student is succeeding- they have rarely taught and if they have it was one or two courses In student success or some highly rigorous course like that. Return higher ed to the faculty otherwise we get this and do not think it is any different here in Utah. Just different names and programs but still the same.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    Nov. 10, 2013 7:09 a.m.

    This is a good study. When I was in college I made mistakes because there wasn't anyone to tell me about the ins and outs of college. I thought that classes in my major were taught every quarter for example, rather than once a year, etc. I applied for college the week before classes started (it was a state school) and they would accept almost anyone. . . .

  • Wixom Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 6:04 a.m.

    The graphic doesn't match the text - are the colors reversed?

  • RealAchiever Spanish Fork, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 1:01 a.m.


    I'd like to assume that I have made extremely good choices (politically, socially, and morally) considering my background and my personal beliefs. I believe I am a good person, and many of my friends and relatives will concur. I assume that you are a good person too, although in my world-view, misguided. But I am pretty sure you feel the same way.

    Happy Holidays

  • RealAchiever Spanish Fork, UT
    Nov. 10, 2013 1:01 a.m.

    @ DN Subscriber 2

    I'm a woman; I come from a low income family. I was accepted into a very prestigious college this last year. If it wasn't for feminism, I would be married to my boyfriend of two years and popping out babies within nine months. Honestly, I wouldn't have graduated from high school if I was born less than 50 years ago.

    I was bullied in high school because I wanted something bigger for myself and I wanted a career. I had also decided early in my life that I wanted to help others find their way in the world without fear of persecution for their religious and/or political beliefs or lack thereof. My boyfriend and I are atheist and tend to have conversations about the proletariat (our families) versus the bourgeois (which we, unfortunately, admittedly aspire to be) , but we have close friends and relatives that are LDS, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish who are very conservative politically. We respect each other’s beliefs equally. We may have lively discussions about prayer in schools and teaching about birth control in health class, but we care about the people we associate with.

  • HoosierMike Bloomington, IN
    Nov. 9, 2013 12:20 p.m.

    "The University of Indiana did not respond to requests for comment for this story." I wonder if that is because there is no University of Indiana. But he may have meant Indiana University...

  • DN Subscriber 2 SLC, UT
    Nov. 9, 2013 12:00 p.m.

    Summarized, bad choices lead to poor results.

    Partying instead of studying is a bad choice.
    Picking "soft majors" is a bad choice.
    Insisting on "prestigious schools" instead of a less prestigious school when one's academic talents are more modest is a bad choice.

    Listening to parents who value education is a good choice.
    Working hard for good grades is a good choice.
    Picking majors suited to a person's ability and willingness to work is a good choice.

    Class envy, feminism and liberal policies are linked to bad choices.