The High Price of Colleges’ Failures

Happy businessman with laptop smilingRecent college graduates who are struggling to start careers are being hurt by their lack of learning, according to Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, authors of the groundbreaking book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.”

In the original study, the authors had a sample of four-year undergraduates take the Collegiate Learning Assessment during their freshman year. The same students then took the CLA again during their senior year, and their scores saw very little change. The test includes essay-based critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and communication skills questions.

A recently published follow-up study of the same students,tracking them for two years following graduation, found skills measured by high-scoring CLA students had made a significant difference to finding and keeping a first job.

Students who had higher CLA scores had spent more time studying alone and took classes where teachers enforced high expectations, such as writing long papers.

Low CLA scoring students were twice as likely to lose their jobs as high CLA students, implying employers can tell who got a good college education and who did not. Low CLA scoring graduates were also 50 percent more likely to end up in an unskilled occupation, and were less likely to be satisfied with their jobs.

Articles about the follow-up study are here, here, and here.

Merit Software helps build the skills that are highly correlated with high CLA scores, including critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and communications skills.

Merit programs provide detailed coverage of the core competencies students require to succeed. Concepts in reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary are covered from the basics to higher levels.

Built-in hints and tips support students while they work. Progress is automatically monitored in an easy-to-use tracking tool for instructors. The software is adaptive and adjusts to a suitable level of challenge with minimal teacher intervention.

Recommended resources:

High School Writing and Grammar Help – Webinar Recap

Grammar Fitness Heat Map

Grammar Fitness Heat Map

STEM High School* has 500 students. Many struggle with reading and writing but are good with math and science.

The English department needs to find a way to help a large number of students improve grammar and paragraphing skills.

Last year the department did not have a good diagnostic in this area. They tried to teach writing skills in the context of the curriculum but that strategy wasn’t helpful.

Grammar instruction trails off in the district after sixth grade. STEM High School students are familiar with grammar concepts, but they haven’t practiced them enough to master them. The faculty feels the students need a program devoted to grammar and writing mastery.

Most STEM High School students plan to go to college. The SAT Writing test is primarily grammar, according to the English department head. Improving grammar skills should have the added benefit of improving SAT scores.

*STEM High School is not the real name of the school. It represents an accurate description of how the school’s administrators view its mission and goals.

Merit's Online Teaching Portfolio

Merit’s Online Teaching Portfolio


First, we looked at Grammar Fitness. A few aspects of the program impressed webinar participants.

  • They were pleased with the broad range of content.
  • They were thrilled with the ability to track entire classes through the heat-map.
  • Participants were also impressed with the program’s ability to drill down and see the areas where students needed help. They also liked that they could have students redo exercises if necessary.

Next we looked at Paragraph Punch.

  • The teachers liked that they could see where students were in the stages of the writing process.
  • They also liked that they could show students their own work at different stages of the writing process.
  • They liked that the program helped students brainstorm ideas.

College Student Passes English Requirement Thanks to Essay Punch

I am writing to thank you for making Essay Punch. Having missed exemption from English after my first try on the college entrance exam, I realized I needed to brush up on my essay skills.

I found your website and used it to practice and sharpen my writing skills. It worked. Yesterday, on the spur of the moment, I challenged my essay test, and needed a 5 to pass it.

Well, I got a 7, because of Essay Punch. I am now exempt from 2 English classes and only have to take English I to be done with that commitment.

I am a 42-year-old LPN, about to pursue my RN degree, and this foray back into school after so long has not been an easy one. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Find a full-working sample, pricing, and a screen shot tour of Essay Punch on the Merit Software web site.