If you have twenty-something children are they supporting themselves yet? If they are still living in your house or cashing checks that you write to keep them afloat, join the crowd. Many recent grads are finding it hard to wean themselves from the bank of mom and dad and move on with their lives. A new book by two renowned sociologists – Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of University of Virginia – has documented how common it is for young college graduates to truly become adults.
You’ll find lots of worrisome statistics in the book entitled, Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates. The book is a continuation of blockbuster research that the pair conducted earlier in the century when they explored whether undergrads at four-year institutions were actually learning much of anything.
Alarmingly, the original research, which rocked the insular higher-ed world, concluded that a third of college seniors out of roughly 2,300 students studied had not improved at all in writing, as well as critical reasoning and thinking. Thirty-five percent of the students studied only five hours or less a week. The researchers followed students at 24 unnamed colleges and universities that were geographically and institutionally representative of the full range of higher-ed institutions. You can learn more about this research here.
Obviously, none of these findings will make parents, who sank fortunes into sending their children to college, feel good. Unfortunately, this lack of learning has consequences for later in life, which the sociologists shared in their second book, Aspiring Adults Adrift. Here are some of the sad realities that the academics documented when they followed many of the original subjects as they attempted to navigate life after college:
Clearly students deserve some of the blame for graduates falling far short of expectations, but the sociologists said colleges and universities are also culpable. For many years now, schools have been focused not on improving teaching and learning outcomes, but in making the college experience fun. Institutions have poured money into creating gorgeous athletic facilities and student unions. At the same time, schools have not expected much out of their students. “Rather than challenge students who come in with limited academic interests and overly narrow ideas about the purpose of college,” the authors wrote, “we too often ask little in terms of commitment and offer little in terms of direction.” The research did generate some good news for grads who performed better in college. High-performing students, as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment test, had only a 5% chance of losing their jobs. In comparison, students who made little or no academic progress were twice as likely to lose their jobs.