There are many things that should be changed in the university system, but one of the things that I find most important is a push for work-life balance with professors and students in the university system. The research and pressure to publish can seem overwhelming and unending leading to longer hours and less activities outside of the institution. This is both unhealthy and unsustainable. As someone who is looking to possibly join the professional side of academia after completing my PhD, I would like to see upper level faculty and staff prioritize this balance and take on the responsibility of pushing younger faculty towards maintaining it as well. I understand this will take a broad culture shift, but it seems like a necessary to continue cultivating an environment which facilitates in the creation of innovate ways to address the past, present and future.
The Atlantic recently published a profile piece about the low college enrollment rates for students from rural America. The authors of the article discussed how the students who come from a rural background are less likely to enroll in college and those enrolled are less likely to remain in college than urban and suburban native peers. The reasons they cite behind the problem is the history of jobs which were once well paying in rural areas and available without a college diploma. The switch from labor intensive coal mining, agriculture and manufacturing in the rural areas caused a lack of jobs in the area but the culture lagged behind with low cultural motivation for students to look to higher education positions. The authors also claimed that the lack of employment opportunities that were once there and the sense of hopelessness in the region lead to the anti-establishment sentiment which resonates in this region.
One of the most promising takeaways from the piece, which seemed rather depressing as a whole, was the program in the Kentucky Valley coal mining country that connected high school students with students from their area enrolled in higher education. The authors stated that it created a support system and increased the likelihood that the students would enroll and remain enrolled. The system seems simple enough in concept that it could be easily adopted by other regions of the country in similar predicaments.