Aspiring Adults Adrift: The Impact of Colleges Failing Students

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Reposted from the New York Times:

“Four years ago, the sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa dropped a bomb on American higher education. Their groundbreaking book, “Academically Adrift,” found that many students experience “limited or no learning” in college. Today, they released a follow-up study, tracking the same students for two years after graduation, into the workplace, adult relationships and civic life. The results suggest that recent college graduates who are struggling to start careers are being hamstrung by their lack of learning.

“Academically Adrift” called into question what college students were actually getting for their increasingly expensive educations. But some critics questioned whether collegiate learning could really be measured by a single test. Critical thinking skills are, moreover, only a means to an end. The end itself is making a successful transition to adulthood: getting a good job, finding a partner, engaging with society. The follow-up study, “Aspiring Adults Adrift,” found that, in fact, the skills measured by the C.L.A. make a significant difference when it comes to finding and keeping that crucial first job.

On average, college graduates continue to fare much better in the job market than people without degrees. But Mr. Arum and Mr. Roksa’s latest research suggests that within the large population of college graduates, those who were poorly taught are paying an economic price. Because they didn’t acquire vital critical thinking skills, they’re less likely to get a job and more likely to lose the jobs they get than students who received a good education. Yet those same students continue to believe they got a great education, even after two years of struggle. This suggests a fundamental failure in the higher education market — while employers can tell the difference between those who learned in college and those who were left academically adrift, the students themselves cannot.”

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