As colleges and universities inherit those who have passed through elementary and secondary schools committed to feel-good educational theory, professors are taken aback by a new generation of students who show little respect for knowledge, truth, or experiences other than their own. This dramatic change within American higher education is described from first-hand knowledge by West Coast community college professor Peter Sacks in his book Generation X Goes to College.
"They expect to be entertained," says Sacks. "They harbor a sense of entitlement and expectation of success beyond reason. After all, they were reared in the K-12 myth that everyone is entitled to succeed. Grade inflation is symptomatic, and not just at lowly community colleges but at Stanford and Yale as well."
The American College Testing Program (ACT) reports that the college dropout rate of freshmen has reached an all-time high while the rate of those graduating within five years has fallen to its lowest point on record. Compared to a 1983 freshman drop out rate of 24.4 percent, freshman dropouts have increased to 26.9 percent.
The change in five-year graduation rates at public colleges since 1983 is dramatic: 52.2% in 1983 has tumbled to 44.6% in 1996. The graduation rate at private colleges, meanwhile, has slipped from 59.5% to 57.1%. Moreover, the rate of attrition at two-year colleges has risen to a new high of 44.3% compared to 43.2% thirteen years ago.
Sacks sees the difference between earlier generations and the present one as
"not only a clash of cultures, but a clash of ethics between the modern and post-modern worlds." He adds, "They just haven't been instilled with the value of books and reading."