And then come stats like this one: More than a quarter of college presidents think their students are graded too leniently, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center released Monday. (When just focusing on leaders of private institutions, it goes up to a third.)
And more than half of these same presidents also reported they believe students today study less than those a decade ago.
Has college gotten... too easy? Or is this just another round of baby boomers calling Millennials lazy?
It’s an argument that keeps popping up, especially as budget cuts and economic conditions push many students and their families to question whether they are getting what they have paid for (or will pay for in the years after graduation).
“[S]ince the early 1990s, colleges have been reinventing themselves using a business model, transforming themselves into Diplomas Inc., run by a new breed of college administrator more interested in retaining customers than educating students,”education reporter Craig Brandon wrote in his recent book, ”The Five-Year Party.”
Lately the discussion has centered around another book released earlier this year, titled, “Academically Adrift: Limited learning on college campuses.” As part of their research, co-authors Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia administered a standardized test to 2,300 college students at two dozen schools during their first semester, then again after their second year.
They found that 45 percent of the students showed no significant improvement in their critical thinking, complex reasoning or writing skills in those two years.
“Institutions need to develop a culture of learning if undergraduate education is to be improved. This is not an easy or an overnight process, but one that requires strong leadership,” they wrote. And such a change won’t happen, they wrote, “without some form of exogenous shock to the system.”
An ongoing gauge of student study habits is the National Survey of Student Engagement, which annually surveys hundreds of thousands of freshmen and seniors at hundreds of colleges and universities.
In spring 2010, 52 percent of freshmen and 55 percent of seniors said they spent less than 15 hours a week studying and preparing for class. But, let’s take a look at stats from spring 2000: 57.4 percent of freshmen studied less than 15 hours a week, as did 57.1 percent of seniors.
So, kids these days are actually reporting that they study more hours than students a decade ago. Not a lot more, but more. (All while fighting the urge to waste time on Facebook, which didn’t exist in 2000.)
And college students often have more on their plates than perhaps a decade ago, let alone a generation ago.
Since 1980, the cost of going to college has roughly tripled, when adjusting for inflation, according to the Pew report, and nearly two-thirds of presidents surveyed said students or their families should pay the largest share of the bill.
While in school, college students are working more hours per week at off-campus jobs or internships, often in hopes of graduating with a fuller resume or at least less debt.
Today the average college grad leaves school with more than $23,000 in debt — and about a quarter of grads surveyed by Pew said that debt impacted their career choices. And let’s not forget that the last few graduating classes have faced some of the worst job markets in history.
What do you think? Is college easier than a decade or a generation ago? Or is it just different? Let me know in the comments.