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The American Freshman in 2007-08

UCLA’s annual survey of freshmen attending the nation’s four-year colleges and universities finds the quality of education continues to be an important value.

A majority of the class of freshmen entering the nation’s baccalaureate colleges in fall 2007 have once again made academic quality and college affordability the primary reasons for choosing a college.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed—a 5.6 percent increase over last year and the largest proportion in 35 years—cited the academic reputation of the institution as a reason for choosing an institution. For 39.4 percent of the respondents, being granted a financial aid award was a priority, also the highest figure in 35 years. High on the list also were colleges whose “graduates get good jobs.”

Each year since 1966, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA has surveyed the nation’s entering freshmen on their attitudes and values on issues ranging from time spent studying to political orientation and views on marriage. This year more than 270,000 freshmen at four-year institutions completed the survey.

Not surprisingly, this year’s class is Internet-savvy, with 75.9 percent of the students indicating that they used the Internet frequently for research or homework. One troubling aspect of this Internet use flagged by the survey’s authors was the quality of the research. Only 39 percent said they frequently evaluated the information they obtained via the Internet.

“Students’ frequent use of the Internet shows a preference for information that is easily accessible, but that information is not necessarily reliable or accurate,” said Sylvia Hurtado a co-author of the study and director of UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, noting that colleges needed to pay close attention to integrating information literacy into their programs.

On the social front, the survey found that while the students were familiar with online networking Web sites, they still spend relatively more time studying, working, and socializing “in person.”

As for attitudes on social and political issues, 36.7 percent of the freshman listed helping promote racial understanding as a personal goal—64 percent at Black colleges and universities. A majority of students (52.3 percent), for the first time, reported an interest in improving their understanding of other countries and cultures. Finally, nearly 80 percent said the federal government is not doing enough to protect the environment.

You can order a copy of the HERI survey at  

From The Lectern

Every time intellectuals have the chance to speak yet do not speak, they join the forces that train men not to be able to think and imagine and feel in morally and politically adequate ways. When they do not demand that the secrecy that makes elite decisions absolute and unchallengeable be removed, they too are part of the passive conspiracy to kill off public scrutiny. When they do not speak, when they do not demand, when they do not think and feel and act as intellectuals—and so as public men—they too contribute to the moral paralysis, the intellectual rigidity, that now grip both leaders and led around the world.

—C. Wright Mills
The Causes of World War III, 1958

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