College has become easier according to data on studying and grades

by Grace

Based on declining study times and rising grade averages, college has become easier.  Among other reasons, it may be a natural outcome of the increased economic and academic diversity on campus.

Over the past half-century, the amount of time college students actually study — read, write and otherwise prepare for class — has dwindled from 24 hours a week to about 15, survey data show.

And that invites a question: Has college become too easy?…

Measures of learning corroborate declining study time measures.

The finding has led some critics to question whether college is delivering on its core mission: student learning. Sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa identified lax study as a key failing of academia in their 2011 report “Academically Adrift,” which found that 36 percent of students made no significant gains in critical-thinking skills in college. Arum’s own research found that students study only 12 hours a week.

Anecdotal information from college professors and employers seem to confirm these findings.

Full-time college used to be a full-time endeavor.

Evidence of declining study was mostly ignored until 2010, when two University of California economists brought the issue to the fore in a paper titled “Leisure College, USA.”

Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks unearthed previous research, part of a longitudinal study called Project Talent, that showed students of 1961 spent about 24 hours a week studying.

They calculated that those students spent another 16 hours in class time, or 40 hours in total weekly scholarship, giving college, for them, the feel of a full-time endeavor.

By contrast, the typical student today spends 27 hours a week in study and class time, roughly the same time commitment expected of students in a modern full-day kindergarten.

In place of studying, many students are working.

“They’re working full time and going to school full time, which I think is absurd,” said Joe Scimecca, a sociology professor at George Mason. “I asked a class recently how many were working, and there were only two who weren’t.”

Dixon, the sophomore from Haymarket, is majoring in tourism, works 23 hours a week at a campus information desk, commutes up to two hours a day and volunteers at church.

“My planner is a wreck,” she said.

Which schools rank higher in study time?  Not the ones you might guess.

Colleges that rate high in study time are typically small liberal-arts schools, often set in remote locales. Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and Centre College in Danville, Ky., all report more than 20 hours of average weekly study for freshmen, seniors or both….

What sets such schools apart? Pedar Foss, dean of academic life at DePauw, found clues sprinkled across the student survey. DePauw students almost never work off campus, care for relatives or commute long distances. DePauw seniors are twice as likely as students at other schools to read at least 11 assigned books in an academic year. They write more than their peers.

“They’re held accountable for how well they can speak, and how well they can draw upon evidence, and whether they know what they’re talking about,” Foss said.

It also depends on your major.

Another key to study time is one’s choice of major. McCormick, director of the student engagement survey, analyzed 85 majors and found a 13-hour spread in average weekly study. Architecture students studied the most, at 24 hours a week. Further down the list, in descending order: physics (20 hours), music and biology (17), history (15), psychology (14), communications (13) and, at 11 hours, parks, recreation and leisure studies.

I have a friend with a son who is studying architecture, and from her description he is at the lab all hours of the day and night.  When I was in school engineers spent the most time studying, something we gauged based on hours spent in the library.

This Is College Getting Easier infographic shows speech majors spend the least amount of time studying.  It also shows that the most common grade given by colleges today is an ‘A’.

Is College Getting Easier?
Presented By:

HT Joanne Jacobs

7 Comments to “College has become easier according to data on studying and grades”

  1. Your perspective on Centre is quite interesting, and it does make you wonder if these numbers are flawed. Overall, the numbers match our collective anecdotal experience, and it would be very hard to believe that students are studying MORE.

    The CS and PolSci numbers do not make sense to me, either.


  2. “The student who is working 23 hours a week is pretty much the norm and has been for a long time.”

    I find that very hard to believe.

    I agree that it’s absurd to work FT and go to school FT, and I would not advise anyone to do that. If you need to work FT, then you should cut your school hours.


  3. Students have been working for a long time, but I still find it hard to believe that working over 20 hours per week has been the norm, not for FT students. According to this source, back in the 80s only about 20% worked more than 20 hours per week, which surprisingly is close to today’s percentage.


  4. You also have to wonder about the quality, rather than just the quantity of the study time. In the good old days, we did not multitask, whereas now, everybody does. Nobody’s quite as good at multitasking as they think they are.

    About working–quite a number of traditional campus student jobs are study-friendly. I’m used to seeing open textbooks behind the counter at the college gym, as well as elsewhere.


  5. A competing argument is that all our time-saving technology makes studying and homework more efficient. For example, a student doesn’t have to retype his entire paper when he’s making his final draft.


  6. “A competing argument is that all our time-saving technology makes studying and homework more efficient. For example, a student doesn’t have to retype his entire paper when he’s making his final draft.”

    Ah, but some of us (like me) were fortunate enough to go to college at a time when that word-processing technology was already available, but the major distractors had not arrived on the scene yet. That was a very lucky break.

    Late-night babysitting is another traditional student job that combines well with study. (It doesn’t work nearly so well with kids who are awake. When we lived on campus in DC, I once had a college student sitter in DC who came to sit for me, expecting to work on her Chinese homework while watching my two very awake little kids.)


  7. Unfortunately I never had jobs that allowed me to study since I mainly worked retail sales. One semester I got a plum job in our department library, but I was mainly expected to work.


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