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Posted at 10:11 PM ET, 07/ 9/2010

College students hitting books less, study shows

By Valerie Strauss

Add this to the common lament that things aren’t the same as they used to be: College students are apparently not studying anywhere nearly as much as they used to.

How much less? According to two California economics researchers, a lot. The average college student at a four-year college in 1961 studied about 24 hours a week, while today’s average students studies for about 14 hours a week.

The study, called “Leisure College USA” and accepted to be published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, was conducted by Assistant Professor Philip Babcock of the University of California Santa Barbara, and Assistant Professor Mindy Marks of the University of California Riverside.

Babcock and Marks analyzed time-use surveys and concluded that the decline cuts across every demographic: A student’s gender, race, major, SAT scores, according to a story in the Boston Globe.

But lest you rush to the conclusion that the reason for the decline is connected to the rise of mass media and the many technological gadgets that can attract young people, consider that the researchers found that study time declined about eight hours per week between 1961 and 1981, about two hours per week between 1988 and 2004. So most of the decline happened well before the rise of the Internet and Facebook.

The authors of the study say they did not investigate the reasons, but they offer some from other sources.

For example, they cite University of California at Berkeley Professor David L. Kirp’s argument that market pressures have prompted colleges to give students more leisure time, and the contention by Murray Sperber of Indiana University that professors eased up on students for various reasons, including a desire to spend more time doing research.

But in a counter argument, the Boston Globe story quotes John Bravman, vice provost for undergraduate education at Stanford University as saying that he is not concerned about students being lazy today but rather that they are too busy.

“Much busier,” Bravman said. “I was a student here from ’75 to ’79. I was reasonably engaged in things. But I had so much free time compared to students today. They do so many things — it’s amazing.”

In addition, more students work while going to college than in the past. And modern technology could actually be a reason, but not because it is distracting. Rather, it makes studying easier. Fast computers have replaced slower typewriters, and search engines can help a student locate information much quicker than a search in the library.

So the results of this study may mean a lot about the state of higher education, or very little. What do you think?

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By Valerie Strauss  | July 9, 2010; 10:11 PM ET
Categories:  College Life, Research  | Tags:  college life, how much do college students study, how much do students study?, leisure college, research on studying, students studying less, study hours decline, studying and college  
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Comments

Let's not forget the increased cost of college; it takes more work to earn the same percentage of your tuition than it did in 1961.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | July 10, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

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