October 21, 2012

Survey: Cornell Freshmen Want to Be Wealthy More Than Ever Before

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The Class of 2016 values financial well-being more than previous classes did, according to a survey administered by the University to students over the summer.

The survey shows that 86 percent of freshmen at Cornell feel that being wealthy is very important or essential — a 13.4 percent increase compared to the Class of 2015.

“We noticed that the importance of being financially well-off and raising a family increased significantly compared to last year and previous years,” said Marin Clarkberg, director of Institutional Research and Planning. “It’s hard for me to know what’s behind it.”

Clarkberg said that the University compared its survey results with other institutions to see if freshmen elsewhere have also expressed increasing concern about their future finances.

The results, Clarkberg said, showed that “this change is not unique to Cornell, and it’s not the case that it was a change in one college … it’s across the board, across colleges and at our peer institutions, too.”

Freshmen said they want to be able to have a comfortable lifestyle without worrying about their financial well-being.

For instance, Courtney Loo ’16 –– like 45 percent of the Class of 2016 –– said she believes that being financially well-off is “essential.”

“I think so many people in my class … value being financially well-off because they are looking to live a comfortable life without having to worry about debt,” she said. “People want to grow up to be able to support their family and provide them with good education, food and a comfortable lifestyle.”

Loo said that students probably responded the way they did partially because of their own experiences. She noted that many students’ families were affected by the economic recession.

“They saw how difficult it was for their parents to deal with financial issues,” Loo said. “Students don’t want to have to face such financial problems in the future.”

Prof. Dan Benjamin, economics, said that he was not surprised by the survey’s results, given that the survey was administered at a “time when people are having trouble” financially.

“It’s more difficult to get jobs now, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the economy, so it’s on people’s minds,” Benjamin said.

Prof. Aaron Bodoh-Creed, economics, said he was surprised that the leap in students expressing concern about their financial well-being had not occurred previously.

“It’s really shocking that it has taken three years to show any response like this, Bodoh-Creed said. “We are four years into a very serious recession, and I would have expected that … undergraduates, who are looking to get jobs after they finish Cornell, would be much more worried about their economic well-being.”

Both Benjamin and Bodoh-Creed said that the state of the economy is likely a greater concern to people because of the upcoming elections.

“The Republican Party has been emphasizing very negative aspects of the economy and making it sound like should Obama win, the economy won’t improve very much within the next four or five years, which is exactly the timeline when current Cornell freshmen will be trying to find their first job out of school,” he said.

Bodoh-Creed said that, although money cannot provide everything essential to one’s happiness, he understands why so many students deemed being wealth “very important” or “essential” on the survey.

“The greatest truth is the saying that ‘Money can’t buy you happiness, but it sure helps,’” he said.

Original Author: Caroline Simon