Today’s College Students Aren’t Studying

Between 1961 and 2003 there was a huge decline in time spent studying.

Daniel Lattier | June 6, 2016

Between 1961 and 2003 there was a huge decline in time spent studying.
Today’s College Students Aren’t Studying

Most of those in the Intellectual Takeout audience already believe that college education has become a shadow of its former self… that its curriculum has been significantly dumbed down… and that its students spend more time partying than hitting the books.

Here is just one more statistic that confirms that belief.

According to a study published by University of California professors Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks, in 1961 American college students spent an average of 24 hours per week studying. That was in addition to 15 hours per week in class.  

By 2003, however, average study time had declined to 14 hours per week.

In their book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, social scientists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa put the current number at about 12 hours per week of studying, and found that “37 percent of students reported spending less than five hours per week preparing for their courses.”    

What’s even more alarming is that this decline in studying is across the board. Babcock and Marks clarify:

“Study time fell for students from all demographic subgroups, for students who worked and those who did not, within every major, and at four-year colleges of every type, degree structure, and level of selectivity.”  

And then add:

“This mountain of evidence suggests that a change in college culture has taken place over the past fifty years, a change that may have profound implications for the production of human capital and economic growth.”

The name of Babcock and Marks' study—“Leisure College, USA”—alludes to what college students today are actually doing with their time. According to a chart from Arum and Roksa, they spend a lot of time socializing, and very little time studying:

The modern university is a great place to enjoy inspiring architecture, meet lifelong friends, and participate in an array of recreational choices.

But it might not be the best place to learn.



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