“I increasingly find that most of [my students] cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings…..Before I can teach [them] how to reason, I must first teach [them] how to rid [themselves] of unreason….. Reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of [us] have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. [We] have

learned to associate truth with [our] subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only [ours], and which are constantly changeful.”

The preceding quote is by Adam MacLeod, associate professor of Law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama in his recent article, published in The New Boston Post. His findings should really come as no surprise to anyone.

In 2011, a landmark study titled Academically Adrift, was published by sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. One of the most telling evaluations of this study is found in the condensed book description on Amazon.com.

“In spite of soaring tuition costs, more and more students go to college every year. A bachelor’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 they’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 Roksa’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, {CLA} 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, forty-five percent of these students demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills – including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing – 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 surprise – 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 parents – 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 Roksa’s report that colleges are failing at their most basic mission will demand the attention of us all.”

 Arum and Roksa go on to state that:

“…..students are likely to learn no more in their last two years than they did in their first two, leaving higher education just slightly more proficient in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing than when they entered.”

The results of their first study speak for themselves. But Arum and Roksa were not content to stop there. Three years later the two published the results of a second study. The following is taken from Justfacts.com, the section of the site titled Higher Education Outcomes under the heading Practical Skills. We have included an additional explanation of the Collegiate Learning Assessment from Justfacts.com for clarity.

“The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) is a test designed to measure the ‘core outcomes’ of higher education, including ‘critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving, and writing.’ This assessment evaluates how well college students perform ‘real-world tasks that are holistic and drawn from life situations.’”

“In 2014, Professor Richard Arum of New York University and Assistant Professor Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia published a study using the CLA to measure the ‘critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills’ of 1,666 full-time students who entered 4-year colleges in the fall of 2005 and graduated in the spring of 2009. The authors found that:

…..if the test ‘were rescaled to a one-hundred-point scale, approximately one-third of students would not improve more than one point over four years in college.’

…..’after four years of college, an average-scoring student in the fall of his or her freshman year would score at a level only eighteen percentile points higher in the spring of his or her senior year. Stated differently, freshmen who entered higher education in the 50th percentile would reach a level equivalent to the 68th percentile of the incoming freshman class by the end of their senior year.’

…..’students attending high-selectivity institutions improve on the CLA substantially more than those attending low-selectivity institutions, even when models are adjusted for students’ background and academic characteristics…..While students in more selective institutions gain more on the CLA, their gains are still modest.’”