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A Sensitive Subject: Is College Too Easy?

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A lot of people have jumped to the conclusion that college just isn’t worth it. After all, tuition is on the rise and recent college grads are having trouble finding decent-paying jobs related to their majors.

However, some critics are wondering if the college graduates themselves, rather than the economy, could be the problem. Is college too easy to actually prepare young adults for the real world?

Studying on the Decline

A customary rule of thumb suggests that college students should spend two hours studying for every one hour spent in class. For example, a three-hour lecture course on Monday morning should justify six hours of studying throughout the week.

College students often describe their schedules as jam-packed, but the National Survey of Student Engagement has found that the amount of time students spend preparing for classes is on the decline. The Daily Beast reports that data collected over the past 12 years shows the number of hours college students actually spend reading, writing and studying each week has dropped from 24 to roughly 15.

College Easier than Expected

George Washington University sophomore Ashley Dixon told The Washington Post that she spends 18 hours in classes each week and studies for 12 on her own time. Although she is a full-time student, college only takes up about 30 hours per week.

“I was expecting it to be a lot harder,” the 20-year-old told Post columnist Daniel de Vise. She even confessed “I thought I was going to be miserable, trying to get good grades. And I do get good grades, and I’m not working very hard.”

According to Newser, today’s average collegian spends 27 hours each week on school—a 12-hour class schedule is considered a full load, combined with the 15 hours of studying. That means Dixon spends a bit more time on college than many of her peers. Ironically, twenty-seven school-related hours per week is equivalent to the amount of time most five-year-olds spend in kindergarten.

Technology Shortens Study Time

Some experts justify reduced study time with technology—students no longer have to look through card catalogs and browse the library to locate necessary resources, and papers can be completed faster with computers than writing them by hand. During those “additional” study hours, students in years past were “doing many other tasks which can be done much more efficiently now via other means,” explained John Sener, the author of “The Seven Futures of American Education: Improving Learning and Teaching in a Screen-Captured World.”

Easy A?

Even so, grade inflation has also been a hot topic in recent years. Research shows that the number of A’s awarded at colleges and universities has increased dramatically, causing overall GPA’s to rise as well. These lenient grading standards could mean that students are receiving grades they do not truly deserve.

So while most college students may not be studying as much as they should be, there are always exceptions to the rule. “Every one of these colleges has some students who are studying quite a bit and, to balance things out, some students who are studying very, very little,” Alexander McCormick, director of the Student Engagement survey, told the press. Many college students also have full-time jobs or families, which also delves into their study time.

So the question remains. Is college too easy?

Depends on who you ask.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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