The following data refer to college seniors and are taken from a New York Times Op-Ed posted May 14, 2011, Your So-Called Education by Richard Arum, a professor of sociology and education at New York University, and Josipa Roksa, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, authors of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. (Also a version of this op-ed appeared in print on May 15, 2011, on page WK10 of the New York edition with the headline: Your So-Called Education.)

  • 32 percent of the students did not take a single course with more than 40 pages of reading per week
  • 50 percent did not take any course requiring more than 20 pages of writing over the semester
  • average student spent only about 12 to 13 hours per week studying — about half the time a full-time college student in 1960 spent studying (Babcock & Marks)
  • students showed no significant progress on tests of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing
    • 45 percent of the students would not have demonstrated gains of even one point over the first two years of college
    • 36 percent would not have shown such gains over four years of college
  • 36 percent of students in our study who reported spending 5 or fewer hours/week studying alone still had an average G.P.A. of 3.16

Why? Arum and Roksa point to “cultural changes in the relationship between student and colleges.”

When my sons began college, I passed along the advice I’d received years before: spend three hours studying for every one hour in class (e.g., 15-hour load=45/week — or about half one’s waking hours, given 8 hrs sleep/night). No, I never managed that much either way back when, but they were rather aghast … it’s a far, far cry from 12-15 hrs per week (one hour or less for every hour in class) which Arum and Roksa report!

[It’s not just college students, however.  Haven’t we all heard parents complain that their kids have little to no homework? “I did it in class,” they say. …Stopping now before I get on a rant…]

The op-ed suggestions for addressing the problem are rather large-scale. I’m left wondering what I/we as librarian/s can do…