Study: Most college students lack enough literacy for common tasks
Nearing a diploma, most college students cannot handle many complex but common tasks, from understanding credit card offers to comparing the cost per ounce of food. Those are the sobering findings of a study of literacy on college campuses, the first to target the skills of students as they approach the start of their careers.
More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks. That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit-card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.
"It is kind of disturbing that a lot of folks are graduating with a degree (from accredited schools) and they're not going to be able to do those things," said Stephane Baldi, the study's director at the American Institutes for Research.
Most students showed intermediate skills, meaning they could perform moderately challenging tasks such as identifying a location on a map, calculating the cost of ordering office supplies or consulting a reference guide to figure out which foods contain a particular vitamin.
College students do have superior skills, over the majority of adults across the nation, in searching and using information from documents. "But do they do well enough for a highly educated population? For a knowledge-based economy? The answer is no," said Joni Finney, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, an independent and nonpartisan group. "This sends a message that we should be monitoring this as a nation, and we don't do it," Finney said.
BY BEN FELLER THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 2006