Editorial Pages – AU Students Struggle To Balance School And Family

AU Students Struggle To Balance School And Family

A recent poll on the AUSU front page presented some intriguing results about the pressures faced by AU students. The question was simple: What is the single greatest barrier to getting a university degree?

One could easily anticipate the replies would mostly centre on the cost of education, difficulties with the student loans system, or other financial concerns. As expected, 42% did cite high tuition as the number one factor preventing students from obtaining a degree, but what was surprising was the number who said their greatest barrier is prioritizing education against family needs (15.6%).

Maybe this should not have been unexpected. After all, AU has a larger percentage of women than most universities, and a much larger percentage of “adult” students with family responsibilities. As the expected caretakers of children, women often find it difficult to prioritize their own development and well being, often opting to instead put off personal interests until their children are older. While the survey did not ask for the gender of the respondent, I suspect that those who selected the family priorities response were primarily female or single parents. While men are often comfortable retreating to a home office for the evening with an admonition that they are working and mustn’t be disturbed, women often say that they feel guilty about closing the door to their children for a while. One woman told me that she felt bad if her husband came home and dinner was not ready, because he had been working all day and she had been at home. This woman was taking a full five course load at AU, but did not consider her school work to be a valid excuse for being busy all day. It’s unlikely this would be the case had she been studying on a university campus. Therefore, it’s possible that one disadvantage of AU is that people find it harder to justify their time spent studying.

Also of interest was the response that received the second highest number of votes: procrastination, which was cited as the greatest barrier to a university degree by just under 22%. Again, this problem seems endemic to AU and the distance education study format. The results beg the question of whether AU should be putting more resources in to researching ways to keep in touch with students, to keep them on track and reminded of their course responsibilities. Many complain that they never hear a peep from AU or their tutors if they do not initiate the contact.

Clearly AU students are motivated individuals who place a priority on improving their lives. They have proven this by enrolling in university studies. It is just as clear that AU students take their studies very seriously — no one shells out upwards of $550 per course (over $20,000 for a four year degree for tuition alone) on a whim and without the intention of completing the work. Nevertheless, an alarming number of AU students are allowing courses to expire unfinished, or purchasing the maximum number of extensions to allow for enough time to complete the course (which, invariably, is completed in a mad dash over the last two to four weeks).

The message for those who are struggling to balance home and school responsibilities, or who find themselves constantly putting off their course work, is that you are not alone. The cure is to remember that your studies are work–important, life-changing work–and a massive expenditure that promises significant benefits if you complete your studies. If you are looking for a New Year’s resolution, here it is: Prioritize yourself! Your family will reap the benefits of the new, improved, higher-earning you. Happy holidays everyone.

Tamra

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