I went on the university’s website to look for some kind of data or study indicating how much students at George Washington were actually learning. There was none. This is not unusual, it turns out. Colleges and universities rarely, if ever, gather and publish information about how much undergraduates learn during their academic careers.
Colleges may be afraid of what they would find. A recent study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that, on average, American college graduates score well below college graduates from most other industrialized countries in mathematics. In literacy (“understanding, evaluating, using and engaging with written text”€ť), scores are just average. This comes on the heels of Richard Arum and Josipa Roks’s “Academically Adrift,” a study that found â€ślimited or no learningâ€ť among many college students.
Instead of focusing on undergraduate learning, numerous colleges have been engaged in the kind of building spree I saw at George Washington. Recreation centers with world-class workout facilities and lazy rivers rise out of construction pits even as students and parents are handed staggeringly large tuition bills. Colleges compete to hire famous professors even as undergraduates wander through academic programs that often lack rigor or coherence. Campuses vie to become the next Harvard, or at least the next George Washington, while ignoring the growing cost and suspect quality of undergraduate education.