Recent studies on college students don’t tell the whole story

By Philip Case

A recent sociological study indicates that students are not learning as much as they should be while in college.

The study, which was conducted by sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia, tested 2,300 undergraduates at the beginning of their freshman year and again at the end of their sophomore year and found that 45 percent of the students showed “no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing.”

While I do think that everyone deserves the chance to go to college, I do not necessarily think that means that everyone is actually meant for higher education. Those who may not be cut out for college usually find out quite early on in their academic careers and rarely make it to graduation.

Thus, I think that the aforementioned statistic may be skewed by the fact that part of those 45 percent who are not learning at an acceptable rate should not have been accepted to the universities in the first place and do not reflect the learning of the undergraduates who actually go on to earn degrees.

While it may not be financially beneficial to universities, I think that increasing the standards for admission would be the first step in curbing this trend.

Another part of the problem is that professors are not pushing students hard enough.

According to the study, half of the students who were tested “did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.”

The truth is that with all of the advantages afforded to the modern student by the Internet, expectations should rise in accordance. Between Microsoft Word’s “auto-correct” features, websites like and access to an abundance of digital libraries, there is no real reason why a student should be failing or even struggling.

If anything, these resources have made it too easy for students to coast through classes without actually challenging themselves.

I am not sure of what college was like before the Internet, but if course loads have not increased dramatically in the last 15 years, then the second step toward improving our educational system would be for professors to demand a little bit more from their students.

Finally, the third component in addressing this problem is obviously the students. I know that my suggestions so far may not please everyone as they basically amount to making things harder, but think about what you are paying for.

Sure, we ultimately are trying to get degrees that lead to careers, but what is the value of our education if we are not being pushed to grow intellectually?

While I don’t think that today’s college students are the stereotypes that eat pizza for breakfast and drink until they pass out every night, I do hear too much complaining about assignments and grades.

We pay thousands of dollars a year to get smarter, not to have someone confirm how smart we think we are.