The amount of time college students spend studying has declined an average of 10 hours per week since 1961, according to a recent University of California study.
The study — conducted by economics professors Philip Babcock from UCSB and Mindy Marks from UC Riverside — indicates a clear downward trend in the average weekly study time among full-time college students at four-year colleges in the United States. According to Babcock’s paper, “Leisure College USA,” the study revealed a drop from about 24 hours per week in 1961 to about 14 hours per week in 2003.
This decrease occurred across the disciplines at a wide range of educational institutions.
“Study times fell within every demographic subgroup, for every work choice, for every major, and at every type of college,” Babcock writes in the paper.
In his essay, Babcock claims that professors generally want more time to research while students want more leisure time. Babcock added that a key possibility for the decline in study times is a lack of incentives for instructors to make their classes more difficult, since this typically results in worse evaluations.
Calvin Gabriels, a business economics major and transfer student from UC Riverside, said he expected college to be a lot more challenging than it actually has been.
“I expected it to be quite tough and at least three or four times the amount of work compared to high school. … My expectations were actually wrong,” Gabriels said. “UCR was quite easier and lighter than the work load I had in high school, though when I finally transferred out to UCSB, it was a little tougher and the work load increased a little, but not by much.”
In his paper, Babcock also lists technology as a possible cause for the reduction in time spent studying.
English major Cara Rollag said technological distractions contribute largely to the decline in diligent study habits.
“Our study habits are obviously different,” Rollag said. “I find that I can’t concentrate at all when I’m at home; I have to go somewhere else like Starbucks to do any studying. When at home, I find myself watching TV, going on Facebook or talking with my roommates when I should really be doing homework.”
Babcock also presents what he calls the traditional effort standard, which suggests that students should study two or more hours for each hour of class time.
Although the University of California recommends this policy, the study reveals that few students actually adhere to this study time.
“The traditional effort standard was reasonable in the ’60s, but it is clearly not happening now,” Babcock said.