Attrition in U.S. higher education is high. That’s old news. Four-year colleges and universities in the United States lose, on average, about 33% of their students in the first year; two-year colleges lose about 50% during that same time period, according to data from American College Testing (ACT). 

In Academically Adrift (The University of Chicago Press, 2011), authors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa rub new data in the wound. The authors offer results from their study of 2322 students at two dozen diverse four-year colleges in the United States. They used the students’ scores on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) to determine the impact of their first two years in higher education on critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and written communication skills. The results support the assertion of former Harvard president Derek Bok that “Colleges and universities, for all the benefits they bring, accomplish far less for their students than they should.”

What follows is a pop quiz based on information found in Academically Adrift. After taking the test, scroll down for the ANSWERS. I predict there will be few A’s on this quiz. By the way, if you have a bone to pick with the information, please contact authors Arum and Roska. 

[Remember, CLA scores represent students’ achievement in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and written communication skills.]

1. Today, U.S. colleges and universities enroll more than ____ students.

2. Approximately ___ percent of students in the authors’ study demonstrated no statistically significant improvement in CLA scores during their first two years of higher education.

3. Approximately ___ percent of students in the authors’ study demonstrated no statistically significant improvement in CLA scores during their first four years of higher education.

4. Among students starting at four-year institutions, ___ percent fail to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years.

5. Among students starting at four-year institutions, ___ percent fail to earn a bachelor’s degree in six years.

6. In a poll of college and university faculty, ___ percent say that developing students’ ability to think critically is a “very important” or “essential” goal of undergraduate education.

7. In a poll of college and university faculty, ___ percent claim that promoting students’ ability to write effectively is a “very important” or “essential” goal of undergraduate education.

8. Greater than ___ percent of employers believe that written communication, critical thinking, and problem solving are “very important” for job success.

9. Employers rated ___ percent of four-year college and university graduates as excelling in written communication.

10. Employers rated ___ percent of four-year college and university graduates as excelling in critical thinking/problem solving.

11. ___ percent of four-year college and university faculty agree with the statement: “Most of the students I teach lack the basic skills for college level work.”

12. ___ percent of recent four-year college and university entrants took at least one remedial course during their first year.

13. Students who enter higher education with academic disadvantages close the achievement gap during college as measured by the CLA. True? False? 

14. Women and men showed a similar level of skill in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing upon entering higher education, and the similarity of these skills remained constant after two years. True? False? 

15. The Wabash National Study reported that students’ academic motivation and interest in academic subject matter (increased/stayed the same/declined) during their first year in higher education. 

16. In 1961, full-time college and university students studied an average of ____ hours per week.

17. In 2003, full-time college and university students studied an average of ____ hours per week.

18. ___ percent of college and university students in the authors’ study reported spending less than five hours per week preparing for their courses. 

19. ___ percent of college and university students in the author’s study reported that they had not taken a single course during the prior semester that required 20 pages of writing or more.

20. ___ percent of college and university students in the author’s study reported that they had not taken a single course during the prior semester that required forty pages of reading per week or more.

21. ___ percent of college and university students in the author’s study reported that they had not taken during the previous semester both a course that required 20 pages of writing or more and a course that required 40 pages of reading per week or more.

22. In a national survey, approximately ___ percent of students assessed themselves as “very successful” at developing effective study skills in college.

23. Studying with peers showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?

24. Working on-campus up to 10 hours per week showed a positive association with increased CLA scores True? False?

25. Participating in fraternities and sororities showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?

26. High expectation of faculty showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?

27. Taking courses with extensive reading assignments (40+ pages per week) showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?

28. Taking courses with extensive writing assignments (20+ pages per semester) showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False? 

29. Interaction with faculty outside of class showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?

30. In a recent survey of doctoral students, ___ percent reported having had an opportunity “to take a teaching assistant’s training course lasting at least one term or reported that they had an opportunity to learn about teaching in their respective disciplines through workshops and seminars.”

31. Bonus Question: Taking courses that provide learner-centered instruction showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False? 

 
 

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ANSWERS

1. Today, U.S. colleges and universities enroll more than ____ students. [18 million]

2. Approximately ___ percent of students in the authors’ study demonstrated no statistically significant improvement in CLA scores during their first two years of higher education. [45]

3. Approximately ___ percent of students in the authors’ study demonstrated no statistically significant improvement in CLA scores during their first four years of higher education. [36]

4. Among students starting at four-year institutions, ___ percent fail to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. [66]

5. Among students starting at four-year institutions, ___ percent fail to earn a bachelor’s degree in six years. [36]

6. In a poll of college and university faculty, ___ percent say that developing students’ ability to think critically is a “very important” or “essential” goal of undergraduate education. [99]

7. In a poll of college and university faculty, ___ percent claim that promoting students’ ability to write effectively is a “very important” or “essential” goal of undergraduate education. [87]

8. Greater than ___ percent of employers believe that written communication, critical thinking, and problem solving are “very important” for job success.  [90]

9. Employers rated ___ percent of four-year college and university graduates as excelling in written communication. [16]

10. Employers rated ___ percent of four-year college and university graduates as excelling in critical thinking/problem solving. [28]

11. ___ percent of four-year college and university faculty agree with the statement: “Most of the students I teach lack the basic skills for college level work.” [40]

12. ___ percent of recent four-year college and university entrants who took at least one remedial course during their first year. [17]

13. Students who enter higher education with academic disadvantages close the achievement gap during college as measured by the CLA. True? False?  [False]

14. Women and men showed a similar level of skill in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing upon entering higher education, and the similarity of these skills remained constant after two years. True? False?  [True]

15. The Wabash National Study reported that students’ academic motivation and interest in academic subject matter (increased/stayed the same/declined) during their first year in higher education. [declined]

16. In 1961, full-time college and university students studied an average of ____ hours per week. [25]

17. In 2003, full-time college and university students studied an average of ____ hours per week.  [13]

18. ___ percent of college and university students in the authors’ study reported spending less than five hours per week preparing for their courses. [37]

19. ___ percent of college and university students in the author’s study reported that they had not taken a single course during the prior semester that required 20 pages of writing or more. [50]

20. ___ percent of college and university students in the author’s study reported that they had not taken a single course during the prior semester that required forty pages of reading per week or more. [33]

21. ___ percent of college and university students in the author’s study reported that they had not taken during the previous semester both a course that required 20 pages of writing or more and a course that required 40 pages of reading per week or more. [58]

22. In a national survey, approximately ___ percent of students assessed themselves as “very successful” at developing effective study skills in college. [50]

23. Studying with peers showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False? [False]

24. Working on-campus up to 10 hours per week showed a positive association with increased CLA scores True? False? [True]

25. Participating in fraternities and sororities showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?  [False]

26. High expectation of faculty showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?  [True]

27. Taking courses with extensive reading assignments (40+ pages per week) showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?  [True]

28. Taking courses with extensive writing assignments (20+ pages per semester) showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?  [True]

29. Interaction with faculty outside of class showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False?  [False]

30. In a recent survey of doctoral students, ___ percent reported having had an opportunity “to take a teaching assistant’s training course lasting at least one term or reported that they had an opportunity to learn about teaching in their respective disciplines through workshops and seminars.” [50]

31. Bonus Question: Taking courses that provide learner-centered instruction showed a positive association with increased CLA scores. True? False? [An answer to this question is not found in Academically Adrift. Sadly, the authors did not assess in their study the relationship between instructional methodologies and increases in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and writing.]

How did you do?

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