New Survey: Students See Anxiety and Time Management Among Top Challenges to Finishing Degrees

For many of today’s students, the biggest obstacles to finishing college are logistical and emotional, not academic.According to a new survey released by Civitas Learning in partnership with the Center for Generational Kinetics, students view the top challenges to completing their degrees are anxiety (35 percent of respondents) and time management (36 percent of respondents). Other factors included working too many hours (24 percent of respondents) and feeling overwhelmed with managing responsibilities (31 percent of respondents). The survey was administered to 1,545 U.S. undergraduate college students ages 18 and older who are currently enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year institution. Mark Milliron, the co-founder and chief learning officer of Civitas Learning, tells EdSurge he was surprised to learn that almost a quarter of respondents believed it would be difficult for them to finish their studies. “Of course academics are an issue,” he adds. But students felt that bigger factors boiled down to questions of “how can they manage work and school, how can they make their schedules work, all those kind of things.” In some ways, Milliron says, the survey was a “continuing wakeup call” that so-called “traditional” students between the ages of 18 to 20 no longer dominate the higher-education landscape. “We have a lot of students with very complicated lives, and they have broader issues,” Milliron says. “Trying to design the right kind of advising support is going to mean a level of diversification and a level of personalization.” Karen Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit focused on community college student success, says the survey affirms the importance of providing personalized support for students. The survey also had insights about advising. In terms of what kind of advising students would like to receive, the topics that ranked the highest were career options after graduation (40 percent), staying on track with finishing a degree (40 percent), time management (33 percent), academic success strategies (33 percent) and work-life balance (31 percent). Stout says that another factor the survey highlights for her was the importance of meaningful relationships and interactions between students and faculty, as well as students and advisors. The goal, she says, is to make sure those interactions are “more developmental in nature, rather than transactional.” She believes there should be conversations that help students learn how their aspirations, interests and passions can translate into a “meaningful degree pathway that will lead to some type of credential that leads to a living wage and a career that has meaning and purpose.”