University of Virginia: US College Students Advance Little
After two years, 45 percent show no significant improvement
April 17, 2012
This is the time of year when millions of American high-school seniors
and their parents scramble to complete the process of finding, and
getting accepted by, a college to begin the higher education process in
But there’s some doubt about how high that level of learning will be.
The title of a new book tells the story. Based on a recent study by
sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roska of the
University of Virginia, the title is: "Academically Adrift: Limited
Learning on College Campuses."
The professors interviewed 2,300 U.S. college undergraduates and
reviewed their academic records.
They concluded that after two years in college, 45 percent of the
students showed no significant improvement in key intellectual and
creative skills such as critical thinking, complex reasoning, and
These results come at a time when President Barack Obama, his education
department and outside reformers are all saying that the United States
had better start producing smarter college graduates if it wants to
remain competitive globally.
study of students’ behavior during those first two years in college may
provide a clue as to what’s breaking down.
The researchers found that freshmen and sophomores are more concerned
with socializing and communicating with friends than with what used to
be called “cracking the books.”
Their “critical thinking” would appear to involve choosing the right
pizza joint or bar at which to meet those friends.
“It’s good to lead a monk’s existence [in college]," says Eric Gorski,
an Associated Press writer who reported on the study. "Students who
study alone and have heavier reading and writing loads do well.”
Unfortunately for U.S. educational achievement, not many monastic types
appear to be applying to college these days.