College Myths: Perceived Barriers to Higher Education

I recently had a great opportunity at our school to put on a college readiness conference for other educators in the field. A common theme that was presented was the changing landscape of higher education. One of our speakers, author and former college president Dr. Jerry Israel, (see my review of his book 75 Biggest Myths About College Admissions) discussed this phenomenon through the common myths of higher education today. These myths often create perceived barriers to why students do not matriculate to a college or university. What is not being discussed is the face of higher education is changing; in that it is more accessible than ever before to meet the needs of a wide variety of learners. This is important knowledge for both students and educators, because we have to realize the way we discuss college needs to swiftly change as well.

Here are some long held beliefs that are now myths.

1st Myth: It’s a seller’s market in which colleges have all the control.

Reality: It’s a buyer’s market where students have many good choices; public, private, large, small, degree or certificate earning, etc. 

2nd Myth: Success in life depends on which college you choose.

Reality: Success in life depends on whether or not you graduate from college.

3rd Myth: College is a bunch of 18 year olds straight out of high school.

Reality: The face of college is changing; 57% of all college students are over the age of 25, 66% are women, 75% of students are considered non-traditional, and 30% are minority students. There are a wide range of learners being accepted on all types of campuses.

4th Myth: My only choice is big universities I have to go live at.

Reality: Florida has over 300 universities and colleges. Their state college system alone has 28 institutions with 178 sites. Many college and universities offer on-line course work, evening courses, and other flexible scheduling. Students are in the driver’s seat of their own education, not the other way around.

5th Myth: College is just not affordable.

Reality: There are multiple avenues to help students pay for college. One area, federal financial aid (FAFSA) has over $100 million in aid money that is never used in the state of Florida alone simply because people do not apply!  Currently, over 67% of students earn some type of financial aid at Florida state colleges. There are also thousands of scholarships (see my list of scholarship sites) out there for all types of students in relation to their backgrounds and professional goals.

As educators, parents, and students it is important to start this new conversation about colleges and universities. Higher education has created many pathways for students to earn multiple degrees on their own timeline, in their own way, and at a cost that is affordable.