Leisure College, USA – Homework and Learning Down; Grades and Tuition Up


Dunesbury strip on college education [not] is right on.

Real references for this cartoon


1.   Four of five of current college students are above average, while doing less homework.

“A History of College Grade Inflation”


2.  “Leisure College, USA:   The Decline in Student Study Time”


3.  What is a college education really worth?    Lack of reading & writing


4.  What with immigration, out sourcing and computerization, to what extent do American companies want American graduates?


5.  Related books

Minor notes on Dunesbury strip: A.  "way out of a paper bag "- Wiktionary

en.wiktionary.org/wiki/way_out_of_a_paper_bag -

Etymology. Possibly from "he couldn't punch his way out of a paper bag." ... My boss is so clueless, he couldn't schedule his own way out of a paper bag. ...


B.  The tower in silhouette in the first panel is St. Paul's' chapel.  Doonesbury is an alumnus of St. Paul's' School.





1.  Four of five current college students are above average, while doing less homework.


  Most common grade in college is  A, with “about 43 percent of all letter grades given were A’s” and “A’s and B’s represented 73 percent of all grades awarded at public schools, and 86 percent of all grades awarded at private schools”  (in 2008).

 A History of College Grade Inflation




2.  Leisure College, USA:   The Decline in Student Study Time”



“In 1961, the average full-time student at a four-year college in the United States studied about twenty-four hours per week, while his modern counterpart puts in only fourteen hours per week. Students now study less than half as much as universities claim to require. This dramatic decline in study time occurred for students from all demographic subgroups, for students who worked and those who did not, within every major, and at four-year colleges of every type, degree structure, and level of selectivity. Most of the decline predates the innovations in technology that are most relevant to education and thus was not driven by such changes. The most plausible explanation for these findings, we conclude, is that standards have fallen at postsecondary institutions in the United States.”



recent evidence suggests that student evaluations of instructors (which exploded in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s) create perverse incentives: "easier" instructors receive higher student evaluations, and a given instructor in a given course receives higher ratings during terms when he or she requires less or grades more leniently. Because students appear to put in less effort when grading is more lenient, grade inflation may have contributed to the decline. Perhaps it is not surprising that effort standards have fallen. We are hard-pressed to name any reliable, noninternal reward that instructors receive for maintaining high standards--and the penalties for doing so are clear.”


Twenty-four hours per week homework plus 15 hours per week for classes equals a respectable 39 hour work week.  Fourteen hours per week homework plus 15 hours per week for classes equals a playboy/girl 29 hour work week.


So it shouldn't surprise us that students in education and social work reported studying less, too: 10.6 hours per week, as opposed to 12.4 hours in the social sciences and the humanities. The hardest workers are science and math majors, who study 14.7 hours a week.    From:

"Why the weak students end up as teachers: Education programs lack intellect"


Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University, noted [in 1998] that his institution's requirement for two semesters of psychological statistics for majors is not a cause to celebrate high standards. Rather, it is an admission that it now takes two semesters to learn what used to be done in one" From Lois Cronholn's wonderful article "Why One College Jettisoned All Its Remedial Courses" in Chronicles of Higher Education (1999).


The bulk of the decline in study time occurred before 1990.




3.  What is a college education really worth?


In the recent movie “The Social Network,” Mark Zuckerberg is shown devoting endless hours in his room to computer programming. He goes to a few parties, but mostly he is engaged in his new business venture, “the Facebook.” How is this possible, one might wonder? Was he flunking out of his classes? No. Thanks to the wonders of grade inflation and the lack of a serious core curriculum, it is possible to get through Harvard and a number of other high-price universities acing your computer science classes and devoting very little effort to anything else.


Colleges and universities have allowed their value to slip by letting students call this an undergraduate education. There is no compelling understanding among students of why they are there. Studying is not how they spend even the bulk of their waking hours, and their classes seem random at best. They may spend Monday in “19th Century Women’s Literature,” Tuesday in “Animal Behavior” and Wednesday in “Eastern Philosophy,” but these courses may bear little relation to any they took the previous semester or any they will take the next.


A 2010 report called “What Will They Learn?”, published by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, an organization that emphasizes traditional education, surveyed the curricula of more than 700 colleges. About 4 percent require students to take a basic economics class. A little more than a quarter of the public institutions and only 5 percent of the private colleges and universities require a single broad survey course in American history or government. And only 61 percent of colleges and universities require students to take a college-level mathematics class.


General education requirements are no longer general at all. They are absurdly specific. At Cornell, you can fill your literature and arts requirement with “Global Martial Arts Film and Literature.” And at Northwestern, the math requirement can be fulfilled with “Slavonic Linguistics.” It’s little wonder that smart students think their time is better spent coding.


 Executives at U.S. companies routinely complain about the lack of reading, writing and math skills in the recent graduates they hire. Maybe they too will get tired of using higher education as a credentialing system. Maybe it will be easier to recruit if they don’t have to be concerned about the overwhelming student debt of their new employees.


If tuition continues to rise faster than inflation, and colleges cannot provide a compelling mission for undergraduate education, we may move further away from Obama’s vision of education ... .




4.  What with immigration, out sourcing and computerization, to what extent do American companies want American graduates?


After leaving everything behind in the Philippines to start life anew and work as teachers in America, more than a thousand Filipino teachers in Prince George’s County, Maryland are being forced to go back to their country or face deportation.


Also see comments here:


5.  Related books.  Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind (1987), which made a case against modernism in general, and in particular the curricular aims of the late 20th century university. More recently, Derek Bok's Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (2006) has criticized a perceived lack of attention to how we evaluate what our students learn, and the effectiveness our methods of instruction.