A Look at Why Colleges Are Failing Students

I wrote the following college blog post last year, but I think it’s worth repeating because I believe that more teenagers (and their parents) are focused on getting into college rather than making the most of the experience once they arrive.

I’d love to know what your thoughts are on this post. If you don’t mind sharing, please use the comment box below. (Thanks for everybody who has mentioned that the comments section today  is inexplicably closed. I’ve got my web guy working on this! LO)

Academically Adrift

Are students learning anything in college?

I admit that this sounds like a strange question. Billions of dollars are poured into educating undergraduates every year, while the stress and anxiety that teenagers experience as they prepare for college is immeasurable.

The time, money, and effort that’s required to educate college students helps explain why the findings are so shocking in a new blockbuster book—Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses—that argues that many students aren’t learning anything. When it was released last week, it became an Amazon.com bestseller almost instantly as the higher-ed world clucked about its grim findings.

The book’s authors, Richard Arum, a sociology professor at New York University, and Josipa Roksa, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Virginia, examined the academic progress—or, more often, lack of progress—that 2,300 students experienced during their college years. The researchers followed students at 24 unnamed schools that included research universities and liberal arts colleges, as well as historically black colleges and those that attract a large number of Hispanics. Here are some of the researchers’ disturbing conclusions:

1. By the completion of their sophomore year, 45 percent of college students had learned little. Specifically, after four semesters these students showed no significant improvement in writing, critical thinking, and complex reasoning.

2. More than one out of three college seniors were no better at writing and reasoning than when they showed up as freshmen.

3. Many of the students who did experience growth showed only modest progress.

4. Certain majors fared worse than others in making academic progress. Among the laggards were students who majored in education, sociology, communications, and business. FYI, business is by far the most popular major in the United States. According to federal statistics, 21 percent of undergraduates degrees belong to business majors.

In one of the book’s few bright spots, students who majored in one of the liberal arts, such as philosophy, economics, chemistry, biology, and languages, did experience “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.”

 Living Up to Low Expectations

Why are so many students seemingly sleepwalking through school? Because they can. The authors argued that among the culprits is an educational system that doesn’t expect much from its undergraduates. Many students can graduate from college without spending much

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  1. Usually one of the first things a middle class person tells me when we meet is that they cannot read, focus, write or spell, because public school gave them a label. Uneducated public school teachers tell the students that if they cannot learn they can become fine or liberal arts majors, because stupid people get those degrees. That was far from the truth many years ago, but is true now. If you or your child, spent 12 years at a school that received extra money from the government to label you and or your child and you or your child still cannot read, write, spell, etc. SUE. Sue all your teachers, and the board of education of every so called – school you went to. Also sue all universities and colleges that give you degrees, but you still cannot read, write, spell, or add two and two.

  2. I think that students are learning things, it’s not like they all just play around and don’t care. They are trying to do their best but, teachers aren’t teaching them simple things that they should be. They aren’t teaching college students things like communication, problem-solving, and even respect. So, college students are failing in the workforce because teachers aren’t teaching them the simple things the should be. When a teacher fails to do his/her job they aren’t just failing their job but the whole school, the community, and every single student that the teacher sees in a day. I know that many college students don’t care and teachers aren’t always at fault but, in this case the teachers are the ones who are failing the students. If you could also make your article a little less bias. Thank you