NEW YORK, NY – January 18, 2011: The Council for Aid to Education (CAE) heralds the publication of Academically Adrift: Limited
Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011). This study was
made possible by CAE’s policy to make its Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) database of over 200,000 student results across
hundreds of colleges available to scholars and scholarly organizations. We were pleased to assist the authors in this major Social
Science Research Council sponsored project.
The research underlying Academically Adrift provides important and independent corroboration of the validity of the CLA. For instance,
improvements in CLA results over time were closely aligned with multiple measures of student learning and its correlates in the rich
database created by the authors. This work confirms that high expectations and academic rigor matter. However, its overall portrait of
the quality of undergraduate education is deeply disturbing.
A combination of factors has created an unprecedented crisis in undergraduate education in the United States. Our nation has 47
million high school dropouts, equaling one-sixth of the U.S. population. Forty percent of students entering college do not read, write or
perform math at a college-ready level. Only 57% of enrolled students graduate within six years. All of these statistics reflect enormous
challenges that face postsecondary education. Rising costs, now combined with declining revenues, make it much more difficult to
reverse this troubling situation.
No matter what scenario plays out over the coming difficult decade, empirical evidence—including that based on assessment of
student learning—will certainly have a much larger role to play in postsecondary education. Without credible evidence-based research,
little systematic progress will be made, simply because it will impossible to generate accurate descriptions and analyses upon which
to base recommendations for improvement. While CAE applauds the publication of Academically Adrift, we cannot help but find it
unfortunate that it is the only large-scale study to date of how much student learning occurs in higher education, based on direct
measures of student learning. As well researched and argued as Academically Adrift is, we need many more empirically based
studies of student learning in order to fully understand what factors to focus for improving the outcomes of undergraduate education.
To facilitate this, we are pleased to announce the formation of an advisory committee, whose members welcome additional proposals
for use of the CLA data to further the improvement of student learning outcomes in higher education. One such study already under
consideration has been suggested by Sara Goldrick-Rab of the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Goldrick-Rab’s study would employ a
randomized trial to examine the impact of need-based financial aid on low-income, public university students’ learning outcomes.
CAE is a non-profit organization founded in 1952 to advance corporate support of education and conduct policy research on higher
education (http://www.cae.org/). Currently, CAE is best known for its work focusing on measuring and improving the quality of secondary
and postsecondary education. CAE has two nationwide assessment programs: the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) and the
College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA).
|CAE Applauds the Publication of Academically Adrift;
Forms Advisory Committee to Consider Additional Uses of CLA Data
Contact: Dr. Roger Benjamin, President
Phone: (212) 217-0808
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE