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Education Statistics. Are Students Really Studying So Hard in College?

February 20, 2017 - Posted toStudent life

Content education statistics. are students really studying so hard in college

How valuable is that college degree? Most college students will say it is highly valuable – it is the ticket to a decent career path. There has been much discussion in recent years, however, about the actual value. A number of studies have shown that college students actually spend very little time on education-related in the course of a day – 3.5 hours, in fact as this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. 


The 3.5 hours of educational activities includes both in-class activities and the average study time for college students who are enrolled full-time (12 credit hours or more).

Latching onto these statistics, the Heritage Foundation recently compiled a report that spoke to the costs of college educations, the amount of taxpayer funded grants and loans, and questioned the return-on-investment that taxpayers are actually getting for the continually rising costs of college educations.

Rising College Costs/Taxpayer Burden

As a part of their report, the Heritage Foundation researched the costs of a college education for the 2015-2016 academic year. Costs at public universities for in-state students averaged $19,548 and 34031 for out-of-state residents. Average private college costs were $43,921. That’s a chunk of change for anyone to lay down for a year of study.

To offset these costs, of course, are federally-funded grants and backed loans which students take out every year to pay continually rising costs. According to the Foundation, moreover, because a full-time college student spends so little of his daily time in class and study activities, he does not graduate in the traditional four years, increasing the amount of debt that is accrued. While heritage does not present statistics to back up this last statement, it does state that taxpayers are now increasingly on the hook for loan defaults and loan forgiveness programs.

High School Vs. College Time Spent

Taking additional information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Heritage report concluded that “Full-time College is typically a Part-Time Endeavor.” For its conclusion, it used stats gather during the 2013-2014 school year, as follows:

  • College students work about 16.3 hours a week on average, to supplement their financial needs
  • Full-time college students spend about 19.3 hours per week on actual educational activities (being in class and doing homework).
  • Full-time college students who do not work are not spending more time on educational activities, but, rather, leisure time pursuits.

Average high school 17-year-old spends 31.2 hours per week on education and work. This time decreases to 26 hours for 19-year-olds and stays more or less the same till the graduation. At 29 years old total hours of work and education activities per week peak at 34.8. 

The following chart compares the educational activity vs. leisure/work activities of the two groups:


It is obvious that the high school student spends more time in class (24 hours per week) while the college student spends 8.3 hours. The reasons for this, of course, is that high school students are required to be in school for 5-6 hours every day. and their in-class time includes electives, PE, etc.

Further, there might be some argument with the BLS stats on this one, considering that a 3-hour credit course in college means 3 hours in class per week. A full-time student taking a 15-credit hour load would thus be in class 45 hours a week, not the 8.3 hours reported by the BLS. Clearly the BLS statistic has averaged full-time and part-time students together, which is not made clear in its chart. Thus, education statistics can be skewed just as any other statistics can be.

Just How Many Hours Should You Study?

According to the Heritage Foundation report, college students are spending far too few non-class hours studying, an average of 11 hours per week. Most college advising offices say that you are expected to study for 4-6 hours a day, bringing a 5-day week average to 25+ hours. But the BLS stats above show an average of only 11 hours per week.

Again, this stat is probably skewed because it includes all college students, full and part-time. It is really important that education college statistics be broken down much further, into segmented groups. And the Heritage report tried somewhat to do this.

Comparison of Time Spent in Educational/Work Activities By Sub-Categories

The report compared students who work part-time with students who do not, with the following statistical results:

  • Full time college students who also work part time spend 35.6 hours per week on these two activities. These are fewer hours than a non-college student employee who works and average of 41.7 hours per week on the job.
  • Full time college students who do not work do spend more time on education-related activities – about 24.9 hours
  • The non-employed full-time college students puts in significantly fewer hours on their “job” (being a full-time student with no other obligations) than working students, high school students, and non-students employed full-time.
  • Even though the requirements and expectations vary across institutions and fields of study, as a rule, college demands less time commitment than do high school or regular full-time employment. 60.5 percent of full-time students and 79.9 percent of part-time students work at least part-time while in school already

Considering that about 40% of full-time college students do not work at all, the Heritage Report concludes, many of our college students are simply not putting in the time and effort that they should and yet still getting those degrees. Today’s college students’ study time is inadequate for the amount of money being expended, whether that is by parents or by federal loans and subsidies.


General Conclusions of the Heritage Foundation

The entire report is a rather scathing condemnation of colleges and college students. One of the biggest criticisms is that students (and school themselves) are finding that not finishing the bachelor’s degree in four years is no big deal. In fact, only 55% of current college students do graduate on time, opting instead for lighter course loads. Universities are fine with this because they get fees and room and board money for longer periods of time. While students may see nothing dangerous about accumulating great debt, in fact that debt is already $1.3 trillion and growing. And in 2016, 43% of student loan debtors were either in default, re-financing their loans for lower payments, or seeking loan forgiveness programs.

This, according to the foundation, is an enormous burden for taxpayers, especially when students default on their loans or take advantage of loan forgiveness programs.

Other Criticisms of the College Environment reviewed the Heritage Foundation report and added it to its criticism of college students and the institutions themselves. According to a recent article, headlined that “Students Spend Far More time Playing in College than Studying, the author pulled a few statistics from the report to support her argument that colleges have become little more than enclosed playgrounds for students, faculty and administrators alike. Rigorous demands for a student doing homework are almost non-existent, both faculty and students feel entitled to their “playground,” and in fact students are only there to “punch their tickets” by putting in the time without serious demands for their intellectual growth. As an example of how far college educations have decline, the author cited the fact that, in 2016, most college students do not know that Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson or who was the author of Sherlock Holmes. It’s quite probable that most college students would respond with, “So what?” Many indeed are too busy with their part-time jobs and their college writing assignments, their mid-terms and their finals.

Two Very Different Perspectives

Given the increase in the numbers of college students seeking homework help online, along with please to “Help me do my homework,” it does not appear that college students are not taking their college educations seriously

And as for their “non-educational time,” they are working, they are volunteering, and they are involved in a number of clubs and activities that directly relate to the careers they are ultimately pursuing. They do not consider this non-educational time.

No, college students may not know that Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson; they may not know who authored Sherlock Holmes. But is that really what college is all about?   

So, tell us how many time you spend on studying?

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