By Chris Daly
Recent news reports about college life focus on the findings of the latest National Survey of Student Engagement, which is run by Indiana University with funding from Pew and Carnegie. The upshot seems to be that college students don’t study enough — or at least, they don’t study as much as college students used to study.
I don’t know if that’s true, and I don’t think the NSSE has been around long enough to provide meaningful data about study habits during the Baby Boomers’ college days (a vague metric that seems to underlie a lot of the news coverage).
But as a college professor myself (at a large, selective, private university), I would venture to offer two reasons why today’s college students might study less than their counterparts from the 1970s, when I was in college:
1. Many of today’s students are working during the school year to help their families meet the exorbitant cost of college education. Whenever I propose an out-of-class assignment, the hands immediately go up, and students tell me that they can’t do it because they are working.
2. Many of today’s students are caught up in the expansion of NCAA sports. For one thing, under Title IX, the number of female athletes has exploded in recent decades. Not only that, but many NCAA teams require their “student-athletes” to train year round. I had a student last semester on the B.U. swim team who had to miss a few classes due to travel to swim meets during the winter season. When the season ended, I mentioned that she must be finding it easier to keep up. She said: no, the coach expects them to keep showing up for practice. This is a common fact of life for college athletes — they are competing or training continuously throughout the school year. There goes 3-4 hours a day.
Both of these trends really impinge on the time students could possibly devote to studying. Assuming they want to.