The stuff you don’t learn

Students are leaving college without the basic skills necessary for living.

A new literacy study shows that more than half of students near graduation at four-year colleges and universities do not have the basic skills needed to complete everyday tasks. Not only is this pathetic, it is quite sad. High schools and institutes of higher education need to focus more on preparing students for real-life situations without taking away from the students’ educational pursuit.

The study, produced by the Pew Charitable Trusts, used the National Assessment of Adult Literacy to test college students’ literacy rates in areas including understanding news, fine-print documents such as credit card applications, and managing checkbooks. The study made apparent that students are leaving college with a great deal of knowledge, but they aren’t being taught the basic things necessary for living.

College is a place of learning. Many students get their first credit card, budget their own money and time, and look after their own health. Most take it as it comes, learn from their mistakes, and eventually get the hang of it. Others, perhaps more than half of graduating students, don’t ever fully find the ability to accomplish these tasks successfully.

It isn’t that there aren’t classes at the University that teach these things, it is that students would have to take classes from many different departments to gain these everyday skills. This would make education much more expensive and would push already lagging graduation rates to be even lower.

The University should offer a class that teaches a variety of life skills, especially for students unaccustomed to life in the big city. The class should be short, even half a semester and offer information students need to function. Laws on renting, credit management, campus orienteering, city bus travel and information on how to get involved with local communities could be taught.

Basic skills like tipping at restaurants and understanding news stories sound trivial but are important to everyone. No matter what their major or profession, it is still pathetic that more than half of college students graduate without the mastery of skills to survive.