Is College Worth It?

Here’s a statistic that recently gave me pause:  45 percent of college students demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills, including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing during their first two years of college. The findings come from an analysis of more than 2,300 undergraduates at twenty-four institutions and are shared in Academically Adrift, a book written by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. The author’s research draws on survey responses, transcript data, and results from the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test administered to students in their first semester and again at the end of their sophomore year.

For parents struggling to pay soaring tuition costs, many from savings they’ve been contributing to since their children were born, this statistic will be alarming. Many will no doubt counter the findings shared in Academically Adrift with the bevy of statistics about how much more college graduates earn over their lifetime, or how, as a recent College Board study “Education Pays 2010” finds, they have been less negatively impacted by the recession than those with just a high school diploma. Turning the tables, in Academically Adrift, the authors offer their analysis of who profits from college and, most importantly, how colleges must transform themselves to respond to the changing needs of today’s students is illuminating and instructive.

If you’re wrestling with college costs, you’ll be interested in an article on my web site, “Give College Funding the Old College Try.”

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