Yet another report on how colleges are failing our students? This one is from research conducted for the book Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
The authors followed more than 1,600 students through their senior year at 25 four-year institutions. Of this group, 918 responded to surveys in 2011, two years after graduation, and 80 were interviewed in depth. While these students may have graduated from college, the authors write, many of them “transition only partially into adult roles.” And because colleges often emphasize students’ social development and consumerist desires over academic rigor, these institutions help prolong adolescence instead of molding adults. . . .
. . . .The causes are complex, the authors write, and include consumerism, a historically weak labor market, and the phenomenon of emerging adulthood, or the theory that people in their late teens to mid-20s delay marriage, childbirth, and other markers of maturity because they are in a distinct developmental stage. Colleges bear some blame in extending this stage, the authors argue, because they tend to adopt a perspective that stresses personal fulfillment and inter group relations at the expense of academic rigor. Rapid increases in administrative and noninstructional staff reflect a systemic focus on students’ well-being, they write, but faculty members aren’t blameless either. They dial down expectations and inflate grades.
These findings may be a function that, fifty years ago, college was for a small elite that came into the experience educationally and socially “prepped” to succeed. Now, in response to economic pressures (confirmed by numerous studies showing a wage premium for those with a college degree), the pool of participants in higher education is much more diverse in virtually every respect. That is probably a very good thing, but it does lead to the types of problems the authors found in their research.
You can read the Chronicle piece here.