Phi Beta Cons

Do Colleges Care About Adrift Students?

On the NAS site, I call attention to the additional findings beyond the central thesis reported in Professors Arum and Roksa’s Academically Adrift. While much of the initial storm of publicity focused on college students’ lack of learning (measured by Collegiate Learning Assessment scores), the professors also reported what contributed to different levels of measured learning.


More specifically:

  • Students who study alone learned more on average than students who study in groups with other students.

  • Students learned more when they enrolled in rigorous courses — in this case, ones that assigned at least 40 pages of reading per week and at least 20 pages of writing per semester.

  • The more hours that students worked off-campus, the lower their measured learning.

This book garnered a lot of publicity, but will its messages lead to action or simply to more eye rolling? Will evidence suggesting that feel-good education is not working lead to increased rigor on campus? Are schools more likely to spend money on improving the resources in their libraries or on building a new state-of-the-art dorm?

I agree with Richard Vedder’s endorsement of this book on the CCAP Blog when he stated, “Run; do not walk, to the store to get this book.” I’ll add this: Please read beyond the central theme. The concluding chapter on where to go from here is worth reading, even by itself.


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