But the American Enterprise Institute recently published a study revealing that while students may be getting excited about college; they aren't necessarily getting prepared for college. That is, they may have the right levels of intelligence for college, but they are not scheduling significant time for college.
Since the 1960s, there has been a significant drop in studying and work that students put into their education. What used to be upwards of 25-30 hours a week of work is now drifting down to 15 hours of work for school. In fact, many students are amazed/disturbed to discover that for college, their proportion of work outside the class to inside the class should be something like 2:1 or 3:1. Meaning for every 1 hour the student spends in the class, they should be spending 2-3 hours of work outside the class. If the class meets 3 hours a week; that's 6-9 hours of work...just for 1 class. Therefore, if you are a full time student (12-16 credits a semester), that should turn into an additional 24-48 hours of school work; that is, you should be working at being a student, full time.
Time and again, students find this outrageous and are not happy with instructors (like myself) who aim for this level of work. They argue that they have jobs to work; social obligations to make; or even that this class has nothing to do with their lives and therefore, should not have to put so much time and effort into it. I understand their plight for I too had many of the same demands when I was in college. But I still put in the work...mostly.
Reconsidering the Study and CollegeMore importantly, the drop indicates several things that students should be keeping in mind as they continue their college education.
1. If this study is correct; then the implication is that the quality of college is going down. That is, no study has yielded results (as far as I know) that student intelligence across the board has gone up in the last 50 years (some studies say it has gone down; but I'm inclined to disbelieve those for a variety of reasons: possibly for another post sometime). If intelligence isn't going up, but the amount of work the student is doing (and expected to do) is decreasing, then that would mean the overall quality of the education is lacking.
2. This decrease goes hand-in-hand with the business-approach to school philosophy which views students into consumers and looks to offer them better and better deals. That is, they lower their demands (price or time investment) to get more customers. They push students into full time programs that they can do in shorter times; they provide options like summer classes or accelerated classes which any instructor knows, that a decent amount of things must be tossed out the window due to the condensed time. For instance, how much reading can you genuinely assign for a literature course during a 6 week program and actually expect the students to do? (After all, students purposely save summer courses for classes they don’t like; so they don’t have to do as much). But it also gets tricky here. Because on one level, schools, particular community colleges and state universities should aim to make themselves accessible to as many people as possible through schedules, money, time demands, etc. But does that mean demanding less work of them because they have full-time lives? That's a slippery slope to be treading and many schools don't do well with this. They promise and push students through degrees as fast as possible, therein lowering the students' full quality education and as well as threatening the integrity of their own reputation and college degrees as a whole.
3. Thus, the proliferation of people with degrees has also resulted in the overall devaluing of the college diploma. In the 1960s, a college diploma was almost a guarantee of success. Today, it doesn't guarantee much and often, the pay vs the investment doesn't yield much to be desired.
4. Students need to be more than just average. They need to stand out. They stand out by investing time in their education and doing well in all classes. Incidentally, this also means that the student gets the most out their education; since after all, they are paying to learn and that requires efforts on both sides of the desk. Again, student’s don’t often think or reflect on the fact that if they get through a course by the skin of their teeth and are just glad “it’s done!” but have nothing to say for the course except some luke-warm grade; they really did just waste their time and money.
Given the demands that we fill out lives with, it’s undoubtedly hard for students to fully realize how much time they should dedicate to their education. In this day and age, of instant gratification, a semester seems like forever (nevermind 4 years). Consistently putting in the time and effort to the full array of courses (even the ones you don’t like) seems awfully draconian. And yet, one has to contend with what they are looking to get out of their education. While just being in college opens up students’ opportunities and possibilities, it’s the effort (and the process of understanding how they work and why they work on the subjects that they do), that can make the significant difference.
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