Posted on June 30, 2011

36% of College Graduates Leave Learning Nothing

Matt Caprioli, The Northern Light, June 28, 2011


A study by sociologists Richard Arum and Jospia Roksa suggests that as colleges treat students more as consumers that need to be satisfied, rather than demand that they learn critical thinking skills, the point of college is shifting from academics to other areas.

The researchers discussed their findings through an American Council on Education webinar. UAA and UAF both participated, 15 UAA professors attended at the consortium library.

The study followed 2,300 students through their first two years of college. These students came from 24 ‘diverse’ four-year institutions. Several surveys were held in fall 2005, and evaluated students again in spring 2007, spring 2009, and their transition into the labor market.

The researchers distributed their own survey, which considered family background, high school traits, ACT/SAT scores, high school GPA, college transcripts, etc.


According to the surveys, 36 percent of college graduates do not increase their critical thinking skills in the four years of college and 45 percent of college students do not increase their critical thinking skills in the first two years of college.

In addition to his own surveys, Arum and Roksa used the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) on all students. The above numbers were derived after scaling the scoring system to a range of 1–to-100. When students did not improve, that means that they did not move up by one percentage point in their first two or four years. Arum said that other assessments confirmed these results.


Over four years, the CLA performance gap between students coming from educated families and uneducated families stays about same. But between white and black students, the performance gap on the CLA actually increases.

“During their first two years of college, white students gained 41 points while African-America students gained only 7 points,” their book reads.