Academically Adrift: How College Students and Professors Aren't Making the Grade

Ideas in Action with Jim Glassman is a new half-hour weekly series on ideas and their consequences.

A college education is still considered key to the American dream. But is that dream hollow? "Academically Adrift" a new book by two college professors contends that a surprising number of today's college students show little-to-no improvement in critical thinking or written communication throughout their time at college.  So why aren't our college students learning more - and are any schools getting it right?

Transcript

IDEAS IN ACTION with Jim Glassman

Academically Adrift: How College Students and Professors Aren't Making the Grade

JIM GLASSMAN:
Welcome to Ideas in Action, a television series about ideas and their consequences. I'm Jim Glassman.

This week: with the economy in the doldrums, now more than ever a college degree is considered key to reaching the American dream. But, has that degree become hollow? A new book by two college professors gives today's students and their professors a failing grade. Academically Adrift contends that students show no improvement in complex reasoning, critical thinking, or written communication during their first two years of college and little improvement in the final two years. So why aren't our college students learning more? And are any schools getting it right?

Joining me to explore that topic are Kim Clark, senior writer for Money Magazine and former education writer for U.S. News and World Report; Josipa Roksa, co-author of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, and assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia; and James Piereson, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and director of the institute's Center for the American University. The topic this week: are colleges and universities failing our students? This is Ideas in Action.

ANNOUNCER:
Funding for Ideas in Action is provided by Investor's Business Daily. Every stock market cycle is led by America's never ending stream of innovative new companies and inventions. Investor's Business Daily helps investors find these new leaders as they emerge. More information is available at investors.com.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Josipa, in Academically Adrift you write that your study found, and I'm going to quote this, 'students experience only limited academic demands and invest only limited effort in their academic endeavors.' Now is this in colleges and universities across the board?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
No, we find that there are students who are really working hard, who are studying lots of hours, who are taking rigorous coursework. And, there are students who are not doing so. And, there are some universities that are providing incentives for students to study more than others.

JIM GLASSMAN:
But in general you found, in a way I'll use the word shocking-- it's kind of shocking, that students are not learning more and that more demands are not being placed on them.

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Yes. Overall, we find that in the first two years of college 45% of students show no significant gains, basically no improvement in general higher order skills like critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and writing.

JIM GLASSMAN:
So in critical reasoning--

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and writing.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Ok and that's because they're out drinking every night or what?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
[Laughs] Well that have a lot of demands but they're not spending time studying. So we find that 35% of our students say they spend five or fewer hours studying alone.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Five or fewer hours a week?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Yes.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Ok. That's amazing. Now are there any colleges and universities that are doing a better job than others? I don't mean necessarily naming individuals but, you know, is it state universities? Is it private colleges? Who's doing better?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
We're focusing overall on the state of higher education an extent to which overall we are not doing too well. There is a slight association between performance on our measure of these higher order skills and selectivity. So in highly selective schools students tend to study a little more, they tend to be asked to do a little more in terms of reading and writing, and they do a little better over time.

JIM GLASSMAN:
James Piereson, are you surprised at that?

JAMES PIERESON:
Not in the least, Jim. The results of the study are perfectly consistent with what I have long believed about higher education, which is that the intellectual content of higher education has been on decline for a long period of time because the curricula at most colleges and universities lack structure and lack content. And I believe that in order to develop writing skills and reasoning skills those skills have to be linked to content and substance and without a foundation in substance and the fundamental facts of history, western civilization, economics, you will not develop those skills.

JIM GLASSMAN:
So you believe in a kind of core curriculum?

JAMES PIERESON:
I most definitely do believe in a core curriculum for freshman and sophomores, which would focus on U.S. history, the constitution, the great events of American history, how America fits into the civilizations of the world, foreign languages, the fundamentals of economics, science, and mathematics. And from there students can choose electives in their last two years in the context of majors. However, less than 10% of our colleges and universities have such curricula. More than 90% of our colleges and universities have what would be called distributional systems in which students are required only to select courses from a broad range of alternatives.

JIM GLASSMAN:
And I want to get Josipa's reaction to this but first I want to turn to Kim. You've worked on the famous U.S News and World Report college rankings. Does an expensive tuition-- or high-ranking university-- do you think that ensures the kind of learning that runs, let's say contrary, to Josipa's findings?

KIM CLARK:
The factors that go into the rankings include important factors such as graduation rates, student retention ra-- freshman retention rates, but we don't have any outcomes data. Colleges are simply not interested in sharing the data that might prove whether or not they're teaching their students anything.

JIM GLASSMAN:
I find that just incredible. I mean why-- U.S News and World Report rankings, for example, talk about-- or they include you know what SAT scores people have when they entered college but, you know, what about their SAT scores or some other score when they leave college? There's no-- universities don't test that?

KIM CLARK:
No. They don't. A few schools, a few hundred schools now I think are participating in what's called the Voluntary Framework of Accountability and you can go onto their website and see they will give their students the test that for example Josipa used to analyze student learning in her book. But only a few hundred schools out of the more than three thousand colleges across the country are doing this. Frankly they're afraid to document maybe that they're not doing a very good job.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Wouldn't some of them want to, let's say, colleges that want to attract higher quality students-- I mean this is something that parents would like to know about, 'Gee is my kid that I'm paying all this money for to go to school, is my kid going to learn anything?'

KIM CLARK:
Well we do have a couple hundred schools that are doing exactly this and we're hoping that they will set the standard and sort of basically force other schools who want to compete with them to start showing the same kind of data.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Josipa is curriculum a factor in this decline and are there other factors?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Well the curriculum is a factor in a sense that we find that students don't read and write a whole lot. So if you ask students in a previous semester did you take a course in which you had to write at least a 20 pages over the whole course of a semester 50% of the students say no. Five short papers they have not written. Half of the students in our higher education do not write 20 pages all semester long and 30% of them do not read more than 40 pages a week. And so if you're not reading, if you're not writing, it's hard to think that you would develop these skills that we all believe college should teach.

JIM GLASSMAN:
So whose fault is that? I mean, is that the students are not doing the work that they're assigned or are they not being assigned the work?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
We argued it's all of our fault. So parents, students, faculty, administrators, policy makers, we are all to blame because we have either supported or ignored the collegiate culture that has produced these kinds of outcomes and I think, you know, to just give you an example of how misaligned incentives are in higher education; so when faculty members are rated on their teaching it's based on student evaluations and we know that student evaluations are related to grades not necessarily to learning. And so incentives in a system are set up such that you grade students easy.

JIM GLASSMAN:
There are these websites where professors are graded-- are rated and you're saying that the ratings are based on grades?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Yes so we have--

JIM GLASSMAN:
That the grades that they get--

JOSIPA ROKSA:
--Pretty good evidence that how they rate their professors on official evaluations is related to what grade they think they're going to get.

JIM GLASSMAN:
You know, James, you said that there has been a decline. And of course as someone who went to college in the sixties I completely agree with you even though I see no data on it--

JAMES PIERESON:
So did I.

JAMES GLASSMAN:
When did this decline start and how do you know there really has been a decline?

JAMES PIERESON:
Well in the sixties, that was a crucial period in a lot of ways, many colleges most of them dismantled their core curricula. Between the 1920s and the 1960s most colleges had general education curricula, required courses, focusing upon western civilization and American history. That was to some extent a product of America's engagement with Europe in the first two world wars. American civilization was seen as continuous with Europe's. That was not the case until the 1920s. That began to crack up in the 1960s when people began to say there's no such thing as western civilization, it's divided into many parts and groups: women, minorities, and so on. Besides which there are many other civilizations in the world to study. So it came under attack and as a solution to it faculties basically discarded requirements and solved the problem by allowing students a great deal of choice in the selection of their courses.

JIM GLASSMAN:
But can't students learn, let's say, critical thinking, if the subject matter is, I don't know, women's studies, or African history, or something that's not-- wasn't part of the core curriculum in the 1960s?

JAMES PIERESON:
I suppose I think they probably can. I think the problem is that students graduate from colleges without a common experience. Faculties cannot agree on what students should know. If you take some of the great questions that we used to study in college: what were the causes to World War I? What brought about the American Civil War? What were the principles underlying the American constitution as articulated in the federalist papers?

JIM GLASSMAN:
I hope you're not going to require us to write the answers.

JAMES PIERESON:
Not one graduate in ten from Harvard today could begin to provide coherent answers to those questions. I think that's true across the country. Now I'm not sure that Josipa's book gets at those questions. She's analyzing reasoning skills and writing skills somewhat abstracted from those. Coming to grips with those kinds of questions in college students would better develop their writing and reasoning skills.

JIM GLASSMAN:
I mean, you're saying that the content is important in developing those writing and reasoning skills?

JAMES PIERESON:
I most definitely do. I'm not sure that you can write about just anything and reason about just anything.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Kim I just want to probe this question of kind of whose fault is this and Josipa says it's everybody's fault, which forgive me but maybe that's a little bit too easy, I mean, can't we zero in on fault here? I mean is it-- for example you know how much responsibility do students have? Do students view college in a different way from the way they did forty years ago?

KIM CLARK:
I don't know. I think people forty years ago enjoyed a beer on Friday nights as well. I think that what she has found is-- and other books have found-- is that students have very busy lives right now, many students-- many more students are working and many more students are working more hours to afford higher tuition.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Also they're working out.

KIM CLARK:
They're working out, they're in better shape, right.

JIM GLASSMAN:
They've got more demands.

KIM CLARK:
Yes, they do.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Is there also kind of a focus-- I want to get to the U.S. News and World Report issue here-- is there so much focus on getting into college that by the time you get in you say, 'Oh I'm in and I'm going to graduate,' because if you don't graduate then the rankings in the U.S News and World Report system for that college will do gown so the college has a huge incentive for getting people through whether they've learned anything or not.

KIM CLARK:
That's true. They certainly do have an incentive to try to move students through because there is no learning evaluation at the end as a standard. But it's also true that the students realize that the college degree is a credential. I mean just having the credential studies show, having a degree does improve your employability. So students sometimes are looking at the short-term advantage of having a credential rather than the long-term lifetime advantage of having actually learned something.

JIM GLASSMAN:
How about that point about credential? Does it really make any difference whether somebody learns something in the four years of college? When after all it's the credential that counts.

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Well the college graduates do have strong labor market returns. College graduates do a lot better than high school graduates and have been over the last--

JIM GLASSMAN:
What about college graduates who actually learned something? Do they have better labor market returns?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
We don't know that yet but we will. We are following these students, the same sample, into the labor market, one year out, two years out, and so a few years from now we'll be able to tell.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Now why didn't somebody do the book-- do the research that you have done before? I mean it seems kind of obvious-- I don't mean to be critical but it's a great idea.

JOSIPA ROKSA:
I think there's many reasons. One I think you have to remember that the 20th century was a century of access. We all just kept talking about getting students in, getting students in decreasing the gaps. And then only toward the end of that 20th century we started saying, 'ok we got them in, are they finishing, and are they learning anything?' So it actually is a fairly new question in terms of holding schools accountable. And we didn't have the measures. Our measures are still quite imperfect and still in development.

JAMES PIERESON:
Back to your question on learning in college I think if you're going to spend four years in college you might as well try to learn something while you're there. However, you know, it's not clear what the actual economic payoff is in terms of learning. The founder of Microsoft and of Facebook dropped out of Harvard. I think a lot of these colleges recruit, because of their admissions process, very bright students, the brightest students, and the recruiters go to those colleges for that reason. Not because of anything they learned in college. It's a very interesting fact that over the last 20 years all of our presidents have come from Harvard and Yale. As our society becomes more democratic our presidents are coming from more elite institutions. Why should that be the case? I think one answer to it is that these men, all men, have excelled in the scramble to get into and to prevail in highly selective institutions. A kind of law of nature of the jungle has toughened these individuals in the race for top posts in the society.

JIM GLASSMAN:
But then what happens when they-- back to my question to Kim-- what happens when they get into college? And I'm not talking about these particular individuals who end up being president but others who are scrambling to get into college, is that sort of the end and they don't think of college as a place to learn? Or they're not pushed to learn?

JAMES PIERESON:
It used to be true that it was easy to get into college but hard to stay in and graduate. You've heard the story about the dean who told the students to look to the left and look to the right and two out of the three of you will be gone in four years. That's no longer the case. Now it's very hard to get in but once you're in no one flunks out. In fact colleges boast about the fact that 99 or 95% of the students who get in are retained. Retention is the stat. So that's a big change in higher education over this period of time. I was looking at Kim's rankings--

KIM CLARK:
U.S News and World Report's rankings.

JAMES PIERESON:
U.S. News--

JIM GLASSMAN:
Scientific rankings by U.S. News and World Report.

JAMES PIERESON:
--We were discussing this beforehand; out of the top 20 universities they're all private universities. And that is I think--

JIM GLASSMAN:
So what does that mean?

JAMES PIERESON:
That's a consequence of, in my opinion, the stock market revolutions since 1980. These are now very wealthy colleges due to their endowments.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Although they did lose a lot of money in 2008.

JAMES PIERESON:
They did. But the state universities are increasingly losing in the scramble for public money among other constituencies that are demanding that money in states like California or Michigan. Forty or fifty years ago probably half of the top 20 or 25 colleges were public. In the 1960s Berkeley was regarded as the top university in the country. Now according to the U.S. News rankings it's number 22 and it's probably fallen below that.

JIM GLASSMAN:
So speaking of that evolution is it-- are American colleges still considered to be the best in the world?

KIM CLARK:
Yes. I mean, there are other rankings. There's rankings based out of London and out of I think Singapore that rank all the world's universities and I think American universities are-- make up half of the top 30 in those-- about half of the top 30 of those rankings. So-- and if you look at-- people are voting with their feet I mean people around the world want to come to American universities so there is this perception worldwide that really we are the gold standard.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Are though-- that kind of market test-- does that belie your results? In other words, you know, if people want to come to American universities but they're not-- but you're saying they're not learning anything based on the test but probably-- they probably think they are learning something? There's some reason that they want to come here.

JOSIPA ROKA:
Well but you know we have invested a lot of resources in our graduate programs and research and we arguable produce some of the best researchers. And one could say that our reputation across the world rests on that research base.

JIM GLASSMAN:
What should we require of the professors and the researchers who really are the main resource that we have at these universities? Is there something we can require of them to get them to help students learn?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
You know in Academically Adrift we argue against any kind of federal accountability system because we don't think it would do any good. It would do a lot more harm, and it would be very counterproductive at this time.

JIM GLASSMAN:
What do you mean by accountability system? You mean like a federal test?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Like a federal test that would require all students to take it and all schools administer it. We think that would have lots of negative consequences and would be highly counterproductive at this time. But we do think accountability should be at the lower levels and that then comes to faculty. And it comes to administrators. And it comes to presidents. It comes to the boards, ok, so the boards of colleges and universities should ask their presidents, 'How much are your students learning? What are you doing to improve that learning?' They should ask their presidents those questions and the presidents should set priority and make sure that undergraduate learning is a priority and ask of their faculty to make sure that learning is a priority at their institution.

JIM GLASSMAN:
So, and right now you're saying the priority is research? I mean, you know, if a-- for a faculty member to get tenure it's-- you don't get tenure on the basis of--

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Teaching.

JIM GLASSMAN:
--What kind of teacher you are. You get tenure on the basis of what you've published.

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Yes at most institutions the focus is on research and that is where our incentives are and that's why the incentives are misaligned. And as I pointed out earlier if teaching does count it counts through student evaluations, which are not a good way to measure the quality of teaching.

JIM GLASSMAN:
What about that Jim, you have said that universities need to get back to their mission. What is their mission? Is their mission to produce great research or is their mission to teach undergraduates?

JAMES PIERESON:
Well I think that the research function is probably realistically limited to a small sliver of institutions. I think about 98% of the published research is accomplished by about 2% of the faculty. So realistically most professors are teachers and probably should be rewarded for that. I think Josipa puts it very well in her book that no one on the campus is invested with a responsibility for encouraging learning. Students are focused on their social life, faculty are interested in research, and the administration is interested in finances and body counts, but no one is invested in this question of focusing on learning. Now the faculty should be but as we say they're focusing on other things.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Josipa was saying there shouldn't be a federal test but perhaps market forces or other forces would produce a kind of a metric that people could look at. And, it might be even part of the U.S News metrics that said well in this university students increased their level of learning by this much and at this one they increased it by this much-- I mean wouldn't you think that some universities would want to get out there and push the fact that that's what they do?

JAMES PIERESON:
I think it might be helpful in the rankings if someone could introduce curriculum and learning metrics somehow into the rankings. That would be difficult to do but I think it would be doable and it would be helpful for the market place.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Kim, you have written about how to make college more affordable. And you know affordability of course is not-- doesn't stand alone. The question is what are you buying for the money that you're putting up. And do you think that most parents understand that when they're putting out money that maybe they're putting it out just so their kids can have a good time rather than learning?

KIM CLARK:
I think parents maybe in their hearts know that might be going on. I did want to point out there were some interesting studies done of twins where they compared twins who had more education to their identical genetic equal who had less education. And they found that for every year of college was an increase in earnings of about 9%. So it isn't necessarily the credential. The credential is a big boost absolutely but even at one year of college can presumably provide the student with something. I want to make clear that Josipa's book says that many students are learning. It's just a very significant portion do not. So when you say you know well these people are coming from overseas and maybe they're not learning anything. Everybody has the opportunity to learn and in fact the majority of students are learning. It's just that a very sizeable minority are not.

JIM GLASSMAN:
And have you looked at that-- that's a good question to pursue-- are there colleges and universities that are doing a good job? Can you name them for example and do you know why they're doing a good job?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
There are schools that do better than others but I think more important is that within every school we studied there are students who work really hard, who take those hard classes. There are professors who are demanding and who set high standards. And, in every school there are students who learn a lot. And, then in every school there are students who are not doing so well. And we think that's where the focus needs to be that schools need to look at their own students and find those who are learning and emulate them.

JIM GLASSMAN:
And what about students who are not doing well in college, should they be in college? I mean maybe it should be the job of universities to weed them out.

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Well if you admit students we think it is your responsibility to help them learn. Everybody can learn. We find in our study that everybody can show gains. Students from all different backgrounds, students with different kinds of test scores coming in, they all can show gains over time. And it is our job to make sure they do that.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Just an answer to my question, can you name some colleges and universities that have done a particularly good job at increasing the learning levels of their students in the areas your talking about?

JOSIPA ROKSA:
That would cheapen the book.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Cheapen the book? I think it would make the book more expensive if you'd name them.

JOSIPA ROKSA:
No it is not about naming individual schools. It is about thinking about a structure of our higher education. As Jim and Kim have pointed out the extent to which all of our incentives are placed in other directions; that nobody on our college campuses is focusing on undergraduate learning which is why the outcome that we have is that 45% are showing no significant gains in the first two years of college.

KIM CLARK:
And if parents are interested there's the Voluntary System of Accountability, there's a website they can go. Those schools that are participating are posting how much their students are learning and it's mostly public universities I believe and please correct me if I'm wrong.

JOSIPA ROKSA:
Yeah. And I would like to add you know that-- do we want learning in U.S News and World Report? I don't think we do at this time. We do not have good enough measures that are strong enough to be included and used as rankings but falling on Jim's there are many other things we could measure. Right, we could ask schools to say, 'Are you measuring learning? What are you doing to improve learning? What steps are you taking?' And those kinds of things, hard to measure as well, but I think are way more productive in moving us forward than finding some kind of a test and putting it on U.S. News and World Report.

JIM GLASSMAN:
I'm sorry but we have to end it right there. Thank you Josipa, thank you Jim, and thank you Kim. And that's it for this week's Ideas in Action. I'm Jim Glassman, thanks for watching. Keep in mind that you can watch Ideas in Action whenever and wherever you want. To watch highlights or complete programs just go to ideasinactiontv.com or download a podcast from the iTunes store. Ideas in Action because ideas have consequences.

ANNOUNCER:
For more information visit us at ideasinactiontv.com. Funding for Ideas in Action is provided by Investor's Business Daily. Every stock market cycle is led by America's never ending stream of innovative new companies and inventions. Investor's Business Daily helps investors find these new leaders as they emerge. More information is available at investors.com. This program is a production of Grace Creek Media and the George W. Bush Institute, which are solely responsible for its content.


1 Comment

I was appalled by the blanket comments the author was making. One that I made note of, "... no one is focused on undergraduate learning." is simply wrong. Sixty-six percent of all faculty in the U.S. are adjuncts, as am I. We don't focus on research; we don't focus on advancement. We get no benefits; our salaries are low. We are there for one reason and one reason only: to focus on undergraduate learning.

The problem is that learning, in the sense that she used it, can not be forced. I can show my students what analytical thinking is; I can offer examples. I can structure exercises, draw them into discussion,and test them on their abilities, but, after they leave my room-- though I may encourage them to use these skills in life-- it is their choice to inculcate these skills or not.

The fact that so many of our students do jump up to the challenges and say, "Wow! This is better. I'm going to do this." is to their credit. The fact that not all students who completed their assigned tasks and graduated have these skills is something that we simply will never be able to fix. Learning is a choice.

One of the tasks of the instructors of first-year students is to re-energize a love of learning that somehow gets lost in K-12; to try to get our students to make this choice to learn.

I think it's time that more people focused on that issue.

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Featured Guests

Kim Clark

Senior Writer for Money Magazine

Kim Clark, a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience who has just joined the staff of Money magazine, has spent the last several years investigating the secrets of college admissions and financial aid. Until earlier this year, she led the coverage of higher education for US News & World Report, which publishes the well-known Best Colleges rankings. You may have heard or seen her explain how students can put themselves on “financial aid eBay,” get $2,500 “tax scholarships” or cut their dorm costs by thousands of dollars by doing chores, on public radio, the Today Show, CNN, Fox and other media outlets. As a 2007 Kiplinger Fellow at Ohio State University, she created an experimental website, financialaidletter.com, which shows how misleading colleges’ financial aid information can be.

James Piereson

Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute

James Piereson is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and director of the Institute’s Center for the American University. In addition, he is chairman of the selection committee for the VERITAS Fund for Higher Education, which allocates grants to programs on college and university campuses. He is also chairman of the selection committee for the Hayek Book Prize awarded annually by the Manhattan Institute.

Mr. Piereson is president of the William E. Simon Foundation, a private grant-making foundation located in New York City. The foundation has broad charitable interests in education, religion, and problems of youth.

Mr. Piereson was executive director and trustee of the John M. Olin Foundation from 1985 through 2005 when, following longstanding plans, the foundation disbursed its remaining assets and closed its doors. The John M. Olin Foundation maintained program interests in the areas of public affairs and public policy, and awarded grants in these areas to support research, fellowships, books and journals, and television documentaries. Most of its funds were allocated each year to major universities and private research institutions.

Prior to joining the Olin Foundation, he served on the political science faculties of several prominent universities, including Iowa State University (1974), Indiana University (1975), and the University of Pennsylvania (1976-82), where he taught courses in the fields of United States government and political thought.

Mr. Piereson is also trustee of the William E. Simon Foundation. He serves on the boards of several other tax-exempt institutions, including: The Pinkerton Foundation, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, The Center for Individual Rights, The Philanthropy Roundtable (Chairman, 1995-99), the Foundation for Cultural Review (Chairman), the American Spectator Foundation, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and DonorsTrust. He is a past member of the board of trustees of the Manhattan Institute. He is a member of the selection committee for the Clare Boothe Luce Program for Women in the Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering administered by the Henry Luce Foundation of New York City. He is also a member of the grant advisory committee of the Searle Freedom Trust and of the publication committees of City Journal and National Affairs. He is a member of the executive advisory committee of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester, of the board of visitors of the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, and of the advisory council of the Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom at Claremont McKenna College.

Mr. Piereson is the author of Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism (Encounter Books, 2007). He is also the author (with J. Sullivan and G. Marcus) of Political Tolerance and American Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 1982). He is the editor of The Pursuit of Liberty: Can the Ideals That Made America Great Provide a Model for the World (Encounter Books, 2008).

He has also published articles and reviews on higher education and political ideas in numerous journals, including Commentary, The New Criterion, The National Interest, The American Political Science Review, The Public Interest, the Journal of Politics, Philanthropy, The American Spectator, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and National Review.

Josipa Roksa

co-author, "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses"

Josipa Roksa is Assistant Professor of Sociology, with a courtesy appointment in the Curry School of Education.  She received her B.A., summa cum laude, in Psychology from Mount Holyoke College, and Ph.D. in Sociology from New York University (NYU).

Professor Roksa’s primary research interests are in social stratification and education.  More specifically, her research aims to understand the transmission of advantage across generations, inequality in access, attainment, and learning in higher education, and interaction between school and work.  Her research has been published in Social Forces, Sociology of Education, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Teachers College Record, Review of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, and Social Science Research.

While she continues to explore a number of different topics pertaining to educational stratification, including the role of parenting practices in the transmission of class advantage, most of her current work is focused on two areas of inquiry: learning in higher education and life course transitions.  With respect to the latter, she is conducting a number of studies examining how young adults’ transitions into work, marriage and parenthood shape class and racial/ethnic inequalities in entry into higher education, degree completion, and subsequent labor market outcomes.  Her research in this area has been supported by the Spencer Foundation and the Bankard Fund at the University of Virginia.

Professor Roksa is also a co-author, with Professor Richard Arum (NYU), of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (University of Chicago Press).  Academically Adrift examines how individual experiences and institutional contexts are related to students’ development of critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills during the first two years of college. The research project that led to the book was organized by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) as part of its collaborative partnership with the Pathways to College Network and is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford, Lumina, and Teagle Foundations.

Professor Roksa teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in social stratification, education, research methods, and statistics.  She was named a University Teaching Fellow (UTF) for the 2008-2009 academic year and a Mead Honored Faculty for the 2010-2011 academic year.  Moreover, she is currently a Fellow of the National Forum on the Future of Liberal Education.

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