5 Curious Facts of What College Life Was Like in 1980s America

The college experience differs significantly for millennials in comparison with previous generations. There were major changes in society and technology. The demographics of universities have changed, as well as rules, expectations, and tuition rates. Here are some interesting facts on what college life used to be in the 1980s.

Tuition Was More Affordable

In the 1980s the tuition fee was expensive, but yet affordable enough to leave the school without huge debts. There were also more funding programs and grants, so students didn’t feel as pressured as today. There are many reasons for that; one of them being that the number of scholars was quite different.

In the years 1980-1990, the number of students enrolled in higher education increased from 9.46 to 10.84 million in public institutions and 2.72 to 2.97 in the private sector. To compare, today, about 14.67 million students attend public colleges, and 5.24 million are enrolled in the private sector.

There were also some changes in education funding during the Reagan presidency that decreased the funding. Overall, the tuition price has risen for about eight times since the 1980s.

Almost No Devices

It seems obvious, but still hard to imagine. People had no smartphones, laptops, etc. For example, to start writing a research paper one had to wait until the library is open. And even if it was, it didn’t mean that a student would certainly get the necessary book. Someone else might have taken it.
In general, access to information was much more limited at that time. The only accessible options were libraries and lectures. There were no tips on how to write a paper. There were also no services to help with the tasks.

Just imagine, all the opportunities that are available now in terms of professional writers’ help that one can find here were not available for kids in the '80s. There were no additional sources of information, and the research would have taken much more time and effort than now.


Activism Was at Its Highest

Although the activism has always been a part of education and remains strong today, in the '80s, it was on its top. The decade brought striking changes in society.

First of all, the movements for women’s rights were pretty powerful. It was the first time in history when the number of female students became equal to male ones. It was also the period when universities' attendants were actively protesting against wars and government politics. There were also many LGBTQ+ rights movements all over the USA.

This was also the decade when students organized the first recycling programs in their colleges. At that time, learners were quite engaged in politics and actively stated their position, whether it was on war, apartheid, suicide pills, or CIA recruitment.


Living Space Was Not Fancy

First of all, there was a lack of dormitories. And they were not as fancy as they are today. The showers were shared, and the living space was not equipped with TVs. The accommodation has vastly improved since then. However, the rent price has also risen.

Less Stress About Future Carrier

In the 1980s, going to college meant that one would most likely be employed in the future. That’s why students had generally less stress about their grades and prospects. The percent of working undergraduates was lower.

Having a diploma meant being a valued professional on the market. Today a lot of students have a part-time job while in college. And the job market has changed so much that even having the best grades gives you little guarantees of future employment.

Parties Were Cool Anyway

In 1984, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which meant that the legal drinking age became 21. However, it has never stopped people from having a good time.

There were lots of parties outside the campus as well as those held behind the house doors. This video shows the real 1980s images of college campuses and students, underlining that it has always been about having a great time.

Final Words

Although a lot has changed in terms of technology and demographics, college time has remained a fantastic experience. Nowadays, students might have a higher pressure on loans, tuition, and employment. But they also have fancier living space, more opportunities for young people of all social groups and technology.

It is important to remember that being in university is not only about grades. It is also about being young, free-minded, and open to new opportunities.

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