Feature

How colleges are failing students

The fault really lies with a university system now focused on increasing revenue by offering soft courses, inflated grades, and “deluxe dorm rooms,” said Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa in the Los Angeles Times.

Richard Arum and Josipa RoksaLos Angeles Times

As this year’s graduates leave school with diplomas costing up to $200,000, said sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, they may be asking themselves, “Was college worth it?’’ In many cases, the answer may be no.

We recently conducted a study of thousands of college students as they moved through four years of school, and found that some were so “poorly prepared for the future” that they graduated with little more than “a paper diploma and an expanded roster of Facebook friends.” In a typical semester, half of the students didn’t take a single course that required more than 20 pages of writing, and less than a third had a class for which they even read 40 pages a week. Students who studied less than five hours a week nonetheless had an average GPA of 3.16.

It’s easy to blame the students, but the fault really lies with a university system now focused on increasing revenue by offering soft courses, inflated grades, and “deluxe dorm rooms.” All that makes for a fun four years of hanging out. But it doesn’t nurture critical thinking, complex reasoning, or writing—“skills necessary to be successful in today’s knowledge-based economy.”

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