NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Closer Look at Higher Education

October 28, 2010

A quick review of the facts reveals that American universities often deliver easy, biased or useless content -- at great expense to students, parents and taxpayers, says the Pope Center for Higher Education.

University students learn less than many people think:

  • Only 29 percent of college graduates achieve a score of "proficient" on national literacy tests.
  • American colleges fail to significantly increase students' civic knowledge; in a multiple-choice exam on America's history and institutions, the average freshman scored 50.4 percent and the average senior scored 54.2 percent.
  • Today's students study only 14 hours per week outside of classes, compared to 24 hours in 1961.

Universities are expensive for students, parents and taxpayers:

  • In 2008-2009, total federal, state and institutional aid to students totaled $168 billion.
  • States spend an average of $4.4 billion each per year on higher education.
  • In 2008, average debt of graduating seniors with student loans was $23,200 -- up 24 percent from $18,650 in 2004.

A college degree is no guarantee of future success:

  • Twenty-nine percent of college grads work in high school-level jobs.
  • Twenty percent of individuals making less than $20,000 per year have a college degree.
  • After factoring in forgone wages and the cost of a college education, the average lifetime earnings advantage for college graduates ranges from $150,000 to $500,000 -- not the million dollar figure that is often cited.

Many college professors teach one-sided courses:

  • In some university departments, the ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans is as high as 21.1 to 1.
  • In a survey at 50 selective colleges, 46 percent of students said that some professors use the classroom to present their personal political views.

Source: Jenna Ashley Robinson, "A Closer Look at Higher Education," Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, October 27, 2010.

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