NPR logo Why Are College Students Studying Less?

Why Are College Students Studying Less?

The amount of time college students spent studying fell from 40 hours per week in 1960 to 27 hours per week in 2003, a new study found.

There are lots of non-slacker reasons for this to be the case: More students work now, students pursue different majors, more students go to school part-time.

But none of these explanations account for the decline. The authors, economists at UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara, write:

Study time fell for students from all demographic subgroups, within race, gender, ability, and family background, overall and within major, for students who worked in college and for those who did not, and the declines occurred at 4-year colleges of every type, size, degree structure, and level of selectivity.

The study was limited to full-time, fourth-year seniors. Most of the decline came between the early '60s and the early '80s.

The data come from a variety of surveys, and the authors went through lots of contortions to try to make the findings from each survey comparable to the findings from all of the others.

The surveys don't provide the answer to why study time has declined. But the authors venture a few guesses.

Maybe technology allows students to do more in less time (think laptop v. typewriter). Maybe competition among colleges has led schools "to cater to students' desires for leisure," the authors write.

Your guess is as good as theirs: Assuming this finding is correct, why are college students studying less than they used to?