Recent articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times highlight how poorly higher education is serving it’s students. I used the word student, yet too many institutions refer to these individuals as customers– and this is part of the problem. I am shocked at the differences I have seen in students since I began my full-time college teaching career over a decade ago at Muskingum University. That consumer culture is alive and well, especially at the end of the semester when students ask for ‘refunds’ on the grades they earned. Every semester, without fail, a student asks to ‘exchange’ their original grade for a ‘better quality’ one. It’s one of the reasons why I know have an explicit grading policy posted on my website and in my syllabi. Learning is serious business and we need to revamp the business of learning in college– now.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that, “…at least 45 percent of undergraduates demonstrated ‘no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills in the first two years of college, and 36 percent showed no progress in four years.'” The New York Times offers supporting evidence that “In a typical semester, for instance, 32 percent of the students did not take a single course with more than 40 pages of reading per week, and 50 percent did not take any course requiring more than 20 pages of writing over the semester. The average student spent only about 12 to 13 hours per week studying — about half the time a full-time college student in 1960 spent studying, according to the labor economists Philip S. Babcock and Mindy S. Marks.”
I hope my students in the fall are ready to be a part of the higher education system, rather than lower education.