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January 20, 2006

Literacy of College Students

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) have released the results of a study of literacy among college students. While some students are graduating with only basic skills, the AIR study found there is no difference between the quantitative literacy of today's graduates compared with previous generations, and that current graduates generally are superior to previous graduates when it comes to other forms of literacy needed to comprehend documents and prose. Other findings from the study include:


  • Twenty percent of U.S. college students completing 4-year degrees – and 30 percent of students earning 2-year degrees – have only basic quantitative literacy skills, meaning they are unable to estimate if their car has enough gasoline to get to the next gas station or calculate the total cost of ordering office supplies

  • The average literacy of White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian students in 4-year colleges is significantly higher than that of adults in the same racial and ethnic groups in the nation.

  • Among college students, there are no significant differences in the average prose, document, and quantitative literacy of men and women –

  • There are no significant differences in the literacy of students graduating from public and private institutions. Additionally, there are no differences in the skills of part-time and full-time students. Generally, there is no relationship between literacy and the length of time it takes to earn a degree, or between literacy and an academic major.

  • The literacy levels of college students are directly related to the education of their parents: children whose parents graduated college or attended graduate school have higher literacy than students whose parents did not graduate high school or stopped after receiving a high school diploma or GED.

  • Among students in 4-year colleges, document and quantitative literacy is highest for students who plan to earn a professional degree (e.g., law, medicine, or dentistry).

Posted by kfolger at January 20, 2006 10:34 PM

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