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Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campusesby Richard Arum
Synopses & Reviews
In spite of soaring tuition costs, more and more students go to college every year. A bachelorand#8217;s degree is now required for entry into a growing number of professions. And some parents begin planning for the expense of sending their kids to college when theyand#8217;re born. Almost everyone strives to go, but almost no one asks the fundamental question posed by Academically Adrift: are undergraduates really learning anything once they get there?
For a large proportion of students, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksaand#8217;s answer to that question is a definitive no. Their extensive research draws on survey responses, transcript data, and, for the first time, the state-of-the-art Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test administered to students in their first semester and then again at the end of their second year. According to their analysis of more than 2,300 undergraduates at twenty-four institutions, 45 percent of these students demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skillsand#8212;including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writingand#8212;during their first two years of college. As troubling as their findings are, Arum and Roksa argue that for many faculty and administrators they will come as no surpriseand#8212;instead, they are the expected result of a student body distracted by socializing or working and an institutional culture that puts undergraduate learning close to the bottom of the priority list.
Academically Adrift holds sobering lessons for students, faculty, administrators, policy makers, and parentsand#8212;all of whom are implicated in promoting or at least ignoring contemporary campus culture. Higher education faces crises on a number of fronts, but Arum and Roksaand#8217;s report that colleges are failing at their most basic mission will demand the attention of us all.
Jeff Selingo, journalist and editor-in-chief of the Chronicle for Higher Education, argues that colleges can no longer sell a four-year degree as the ticket to success in life. College (Un)Bound exposes the dire pitfalls in the current state of higher education for anyone concerned with intellectual and financial future of America.
What is the value of a college degree?
The four-year college experience is as American as apple pie. So is the belief that higher education offers a ticket to a better life. But with student-loan debt surpassing the $1 trillion mark and unemployment of college graduates at historic highs, people are beginning to question that value.
In College (Un)bound, Jeffrey J. Selingo, editor at large of the Chronicle of Higher Education, argues that Americas higher education system is broken. The great credential race has turned universities into big business and fostered an environment where middle-tier colleges can command elite university-level tuition while concealing staggeringly low graduation rates, churning out graduates with few of the skills needed for a rapidly evolving job market.
Selingo not only turns a critical eye on the current state of higher education but also predicts how technology will transform it for the better. Free massive online open courses (MOOCs) and hybrid classes, adaptive learning software, and the unbundling of traditional degree credits will increase access to high-quality education regardless of budget or location and tailor lesson plans to individual needs. One thing is certain—the Class of 2020 will have a radically different college experience than their parents.
Incisive, urgent, and controversial, College (Un)bound is a must-read for prospective students, parents, and anyone concerned with the future of American higher education.
Few books have ever made their presence felt on college campusesand#8212;and newspaper opinion pagesand#8212;as quickly and thoroughly as Richard Arum and Josipa Roksaand#8217;s 2011 landmark study of undergraduatesand#8217; learning, socialization, and study habits, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. From the moment it was published, one thing was clear: no university could afford to ignore its well-documented and disturbing findings about the failings of undergraduate education.
Now Arum and Roksa are back, and their new book follows the same cohort of undergraduates through the rest of their college careers and out into the working world. Built on interviews and detailed surveys of almost a thousand recent college graduates from a diverse range of colleges and universities, Aspiring Adults Adrift reveals a generation facing a difficult transition to adulthood. Recent graduates report trouble finding decent jobs and developing stable romantic relationships, as well as assuming civic and financial responsibilityand#8212;yet at the same time, they remain surprisingly hopeful and upbeat about their prospects.
Analyzing these findings in light of studentsand#8217; performance on standardized tests of general collegiate skills, selectivity of institutions attended, and choice of major, Arum and Roksa not only map out the current state of a generation too often adrift, but enable us to examine the relationship between college experiences and tentative transitions to adulthood. Sure to be widely discussed, Aspiring Adults Adrift will compel us once again to re-examine the aims, approaches, and achievements of higher education.
About the Author
Richard Arum is professor in the Department of Sociology with a joint appointment in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. He is also director of the Education Research Program of the Social Science Research Council and the author of Judging School Discipline: The Crisis of Moral Authority in American Schools. Josipa Roksa is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.
Table of Contents
1and#160;and#160; College Cultures and Student Learning
2and#160;and#160; Origins and Trajectories
3and#160;and#160; Pathways through Colleges Adrift
4and#160;and#160; Channeling Studentsand#8217; Energies toward Learning
5and#160;and#160; A Mandate for Reform
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