“Almost two-thirds of students show no improvement on critical thinking after four years of college? What are they doing there?” asks the New Hampshire Union Leader’s Sunday editorial.
The editorial cites a Harvard Business Review article by Andrew McAfee that included a study that tracked 2,300 full-time college students. After two years, 45% of these students showed no significant improvement on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a written test of critical thinking. After four years of expensive education, 36% had no improvement. Even students who did manage to get what their parents thought they were paying for showed improvement that was “quite small.”
I’m not sure how the Union Leader got two-thirds out of the above stats, but even still, the figures are discouraging and alarming. The editorial concludes that subsidized student loans are funding too much partying, and the value of a college education is falling.
Two questions come to my mind.
1) How is it that kids who party more than they study pass their courses? A party culture among kids is one thing. A permissive academic culture that accepts substandard work is another.
2) How can we be pouring so much of our resources into a degree to get so little out? Forget about job prospects, but not even some sound reasoning? Critical thinking is the foundation for thoughtful citizenship. College isn’t the only way to obtain this skill but it has long been a dependable one, until now.
Parents, I suspect, are now caught in a paradigm that is beginning to shift. We all want our kids to go to college, but will they be better prepared for the world coming out than when they went in, or just four years older, deep in debt and with a drinking habit? Sadly, it’s a very real question.