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College is harder than ever to get in, but is it easier once you’re there?

Did these kids get off easy?
Did these kids get off easy?
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In a recent research paper from the University of California at Santa Barbara, evidence shows college students have it easier than ever. The paper, titled “Leisure College, USA,” compared modern survey responses with information from past studies, notably a longitudinal study called Project Talent which focused on college students in 1961.

The earlier students spent about 24 hours a week studying, which includes reading, writing, preparing for class and exams, and an additional 16 hours in actual classes. That’s 40 hours a week, roughly the same as a standard full-time job. Nowadays, however, students spend 27 hours total in class and studying, which is nearly equivalent to the expectation placed on modern kindergarteners.

Critics of higher education are citing this as evidence that college is no longer delivering on its mission to enhance the critical thinking and work ethic skills of students. But several students aren’t simply wiling away the extra hours; it’s now common for students to have a part-time college schedule but carry a full-time job as well.

How has your college workload been? Is it easier or harder to manage than high school? Are you an academic who has noticed this change over time? Is the entire collegiate system suffering, or is this a byproduct of better technology and more readily available information for students?


Richard Arum, Professor of Sociology and Education, New York University. Also co-author of “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campus” (University of Chicago Press, 2010)