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.


23 responses to “36% of College Graduates Leave Learning Nothing”

  1. American Son says:

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

    I see this everyday as a college student. I am studying network communications management currently(graduate in December, first in my family) and have a few blacks in my general studies courses, and none in my 300-400 classes. The attitude of these blacks is very elementary and juvenile. At the end of every term, we are required to give a presentation on the material learned in each class. As my fellow AmReners already know, the blacks show no knowledge of the subject, stumble their way through showing their incomplete PowerPoint slides, and almost act as if they don’t really care that they will have to retake the class(and pay for it). I watch my professors as these presentations unfold and they look as if they are thinking “really? This is what qualifies as a college student these days?”

    Occasionally we are paired up into 2-3 person groups, and if I am put in a group with a black or hispanic, I politely ask the professor if I can work solo. I have never had one turn me down. I might have to do more work, but it sure beats standing next to the “college students” looking like a bumbling idiot. Plus I learn more. And that is what college is supposed to be about, not social interactions, and definetly not showing the basic ability to read and write. That should have “ben lernt lon’ time ago” Tyrone and LaQueffa.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I will employ my “critical thinking skills” to scoff at the headline, which equates “no improvement in critical thinking skills” (assuming that can even be measured) with “learned nothing”. Ridiculous.

  3. Mike H. says:

    Naturally, it never occurs to the researchers to consider that perhaps the reason for this marked increase in the CLA performance gap is because the blacks that made it to college got there because they were black, not because of their excellent test scores.

  4. Anonymous says:

    As the Wizard of Oz said to the Scarecrow: “You don’t need a brain, here is a diploma”. What college is really doing is no more than the Wizard, it just takes longer and costs more money.

  5. sbuffalonative says:

    To too many young people today, college is seen as little more than a four year party. By now, I suspect the weekend starts on Wednesday.

  6. cliff yablonski says:

    Remember the Jena 6?

    This is Mychal Bell, sometime after finishing his first year of college.

    Going to college will not change him.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I got my Bachelor’s in 1988 and Master’s in 2006. I don’t recall one black in all my classes at the graduate level. Yeah, blacks are now getting a free ride from 13th – 16th grade…but grad school is a whole different (White & Asian) world.

  8. Varina says:

    5 — sbuffalonative wrote at 6:46 PM on June 30:

    To too many young people today, college is seen as little more than a four year party. By now, I suspect the weekend starts on Wednesday.


    Not if you’re a science major!

  9. Sureesh says:

    I bet you that Indian and Chinese learned more than whites.

  10. Urban Teacher says:

    There is more than one reason why college students may learn very little.

    First, college these days is mostly indoctrination on social and environmental issues. Look at the “mission statements” of universities and see if there is mention of anything else.

    Second, the main measure of “teaching effectiveness” is the course evaluation filled out by students. To get a good evaluation, professors have to make courses less demanding and more entertaining. There is no measure of how much students have learned on academic topics.

    Third, it is generally believed that you need an above average IQ to benefit from college (115 or higher), but lower IQ students are now being admitted. At one open admission state university (all you need is a high school diploma to get in), a student asking for help at the counseling center was found to have an IQ of 57 (mental retardation).

    Finally, some faculty refuse to teach upper level courses in which writing is required because so many students cannot write a single grammatically correct sentence that makes any sense.

  11. Baobhan Sith says:

    Sureesh @9

    I bet you that Indian and Chinese learned more than whites.

    Yes, by stealing or making use of what whites created first.

    Why do “smarter than white” Indians and Chinese demand entry into white created countries?

    Why do you people fall all over yourselves to live in societies created by us stupid whites?

    Why do you find it necessary to flee the countries created by people “who look like you”?

    Indians and Chinese do not have the creative ability that whites do, that’s what you can’t seem to deal with.

  12. Eugenicist says:

    I agree with Charles Murray, we need to use certification tests, even for subjects like U.S. History and English. This could be not only a stand-in for an IQ test, but a rough proxy for the job applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. Much more useful than a B.A. in sociology from some unknown school.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is all so different from my time at Vassar. I think the basic student learned a lot but the exceptional genius students learned just gobloads about everything. Everyone had lots of work and spent hours studying although the drama and art history majors had it a bit easier to be sure. There was tons of writing, it wasn’t unusual to have to read 5 FULL BOOKS, 10 articles, and write 3 short (5) papers and one long (20 page) papers EACH WEEK if you had tough classes. I cant imagine life in the dumbed down average universities. I see on the news what some professors are professors of at state universities and I want to laugh. We learned Greek, biology, neuralscience, engineering, not LABOR studies!!!

    I recently visited the bookstore at the state university in California. I was thinking maybe I can find some cool stuff to read like we read at Vassar. NO DICE! Their education major books were ALL about teaching “ethnic” classes. It was disgusting. Nothing on learning theory. They are ground zero for indoctrination. Their philosophy section had just about nothing real the students were reading.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The reason that large percentage of college students aren’t increasing their reasoning skills in college, is that their brains are fully developed.

    They (largely being blacks and browns, with VERY different average capacity for frontal lobe development than whites), are DONE with frontal lobe development at a much younger age.


    Most blacks are mental children, which is a simple fact , proven by millenia of history, as well as everyday experience…oh, and science, such as it is.

    We now have a pretty good grasp of the fact that at least among whites, frontal lobe development (where higher reasoning skills, judgement and WISDOM) are largely localized, continues into the early twenties.

    Blacks mature much faster than whites, however their ceiling for maturity is much, MUCH lower.

    Mud huts, loin cloths, hunter- gatherer production and subsistence, voodoo, etc.

    Blacks never discovered or explored much of anything in all of human history. Anyone who tries to explain this away in relativistic mumbo-jumbo is a deluded fool.

    It’s a simple equation. Blacks just don’t have that much to develop, and they’re DONE with it much earlier.

    Unless there’s some black space program I wasn’t aware of…

  15. Ziwtra says:

    One reason why a lot of college graduates do not sharpen their critical thinking skills is that more and more junk majors become part of university curricula, such as Gender Studies, Latin American Studies, Civil Rights Studies et cetera. These memorization-based majors don’t require much of critical thinking skills, but only serve to accomodate minorities who cannot handle subjects that actually require complex thinking (e.g. Physics, Engineering, Economics, Mathematics). A university diploma handed out in a junk major is consequently as much worth as junk – it gives no advantage over a high school diploma to the job market even for a blue-collar worker. With the only difference that the student has accumulated a mountain of debt which he will carry as a burden for years.

    I am personally pro-college, but only if the student chooses a major that contributes to a productive society and if they have the will and discipline to learn and excel. Most high school graduates, it seems, lack determination and don’t actually know what they want. As #5 pointed out, they see college as a party scene.

  16. Question Diversity says:

    15 Ziwtra and all others concerned:

    Someone from somewhere dumped some (Can’t) Teach for America conference documents in my dumpster. I transcribed the most hilarious document I found thus far.

  17. Salt says:

    Honestly, the colleges don’t treat critical thinking skills outside of a handful of classes. There are physics courses which require it, sometimes a philosophy course, and at the high end of chemistry there is some requirement for critical thinking; the rest is either indoctrination courses to get conformity, or rote memorization type classes.

    So I am not surprised by the results at all. In the 1990’s I had a history course where the professor assigned both history books from the US, and from Canada. He also would break out the out of print history books, and read from them during lectures. He did it to illustrate a difference about truths, and how history is written. He would tell you the answer he was looking for, but would also have questions where you had to analyze two very different versions of the same event, and give your take on it. That kind of professor was a rarity at the schools I’ve been to since. I was very sad to hear he retired recently.

  18. Anonymous says:

    16 — Question Diversity wrote at 9:37 AM on July 2:

    15 Ziwtra and all others concerned:

    Someone from somewhere dumped some (Can’t) Teach for America conference documents in my dumpster. I transcribed the most hilarious document I found thus far.

    Thanks for that, QD. Absolutely amazing stuff. Everybody here should click on that link, it’s mind-blowing.

    Regular AR readers know QD to be a reliable and trustworthy commenter, so if he says that document from his dumpster is legit, I believe him. Because otherwise I would assume it to be either a fake or some sort of satire (possibly by Iowahawk). It seems too absurd to be real. But — unfortunately for our nation — it is real. A real person applying for a real teaching position.

    If the bubble-brained valley-girl who gave those ridiculous answers on her questionnaire is at all representative of TFA, then these idealistic SWPL “teachers” and their dim-witted ghetto “students” deserve each other.

  19. Question Diversity says:


    I’m still on the fence whether this “Kaitlyn” is for real and wrote honest answers to these questions, or whether she or someone else was just joking around. On the one hand, TFA lauds its “high quality” members, so I doubt anyone they would accept could be that dumb. On the other hand, the handwriting seems to be that of a young teenage girl, which is coincidentally the mentality of most of these answers, and the handwriting seems consistent – I know if I were playing this kind of joke, I would be laughing so hard I wouldn’t be able to write legibly.

  20. Sureesh says:

    “Kaitlyn” is not for real- she makes references to the Cosby show which is a 80s family sitcom. It was popular when I first came to America in 1985 and went off the air around 1990. The other answers and the fact that she’s a recent grad on her parent’s bill implies that she’s in her early 20s which mean she would have been BORN in the late 80s and TOO YOUNG to remember the Cosby show.

    My guess is that “Kaitlyn” is a 40 something racial realistic making fun of liberals. My own kids, who are teenagers, have no idea what the Cosby Show is.

  21. Anonymous says:

    “(e.g. Physics, Engineering, Economics, Mathematics”

    Economics as it is taught in todays colleges is absolute junk. Either Marxist garbage or Plutocratic Free trade globalism. Worse than so-called Black studies at least the people taking those tend not to do any further harm to society. Whereas as modern Economists in the good old USA have destroyed America even faster than Political Correctness. I did not think that was possible.

  22. Question Diversity says:

    20 Sureesh:

    The more I think about it, the more I tend to think that it’s not for real. From what I have been able to find out about TFA recruits and actual hires, the TFA program wants brilliant Ivy League or near-Ivy college type graduates in education or otherwise. While a typical TFAer is otherwise brilliant and well read, they are naive about race, until they get their first assignment. Somehow I now doubt that the TFA program would want people like this supposed “Kaitlyn” that comes off as sort of a valley girl slash tart slash bimbo.

  23. Usury101 says:

    “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.”

    No matter… for we banksters’ really are laughing all the way to the bank!

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