A short excerpt from a recent New Yorker book review:
Few people are fully reliable reporters of time use. But if students are studying less it may be because the demands on them are fewer. Half the students in the study said that they had not taken a single course in the previous semester requiring more than twenty pages of writing. A third said that they had not taken a course requiring more than forty pages of reading a week. Arum and Roksa point out that professors have little incentive to make their courses more rigorous. Professors say that the only aspect of their teaching that matters professionally is student course evaluations, since these can figure in tenure and promotion decisions. It’s in professors’ interest, therefore, for their classes to be entertaining and their assignments not too onerous. They are not deluded: a study carried out back in the nineteen-nineties (by Alexander Astin, as it happens) found that faculty commitment to teaching is negatively correlated with compensation.
Still, Arum and Roksa believe that some things do make a difference. First of all, students who are better prepared academically for college not only do better when they get to college; they improve more markedly while they’re there. And students who take courses requiring them to write more than twenty pages a semester and to read more than forty pages a week show greater improvement.