Mercyhurst community reacts to new studies that detail performance

The typical college student is reportedly not learning the basic skills needed to land a job after graduation, yet stress levels are at all-time highs, according to two recently published studies.

The first report was based on a book titled “Academically Adrift” by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, and it discussed the lack of writing-intensive courses that college students are required to take. The study tracked approximately 2,000 students.

This lack of writing in college courses contributes to the underdevelopment of such tasks as critical thinking and complex reasoning, and it leaves students with knowledge in their field but without any analytical skills to use that knowledge.

The second story, published in the New York Times in late January, explored college students’ stress levels and concluded that they are at a record high. The stress level includes classwork and outside factors, such as the economy, ability to find a job and distractions.

The question remains: how do college students really feel about their courses and stress levels, and which survey is closer to the reality?

“The problem you see is that there are two different kinds of students,” Alice Edwards, Ph.D., Mercyhurst’s world languages and cultures department chair said.

Robert von Thaden, Ph.D., of the religious studies department said he views these issues as part of a broader societal problem.

On the other hand, Randy Clemons, Ph.D., professor of political science, said he thinks students are learning and gaining the essential tools needed to succeed in the work force, including skills such as critical thinking, writing, research and analysis, the identification of moral dilemmas, a sense of responsibility, global awareness, citizenship, knowledge and the importance of service.

But other factors could be to blame for an increase in students’ stress. For some professors, Facebook and text messaging come to mind.

On a more positive note, Edwards said, “I see enormous growth between freshmen and seniors; it depends on how seriously the student is taking (his or her) major.”

Although there are more distractions now than ever in the life of a college student, financial and economic pressures combine to form the amount of stress a student has—even if stress from coursework does not increase.

“I will say, though I have no idea why writing proponents hold up 20 pages as the magic number. That seems odd to me,” von Thaden said. “This issue seems to be one of skill development, not quantity.”

ALAINA RYDZEWSKI

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