Inside Books: Richard Arum Explores The Tentative Transitions of College Graduates

Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates

By Richard Arum and Josipa Roska
(University of Chicago Press, 2014)

In their 2011 book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Josipa Roska documented the failure of universities to effectively educate undergraduates. Arum, a professor of sociology and education, and his collaborator used a state-of-the-art tool – the College Learning Assessment – to measure the higher order thinking skills of undergraduates, which rendered dismal results.

The authors’ new book, Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates, follows the same undergraduates through the remainder of their college years and into the working world. Built on interviews and detailed surveys of nearly one thousand recent college graduates from a range of four-year colleges and universities, Aspiring Adults Adrift reveals a generation facing a difficult transition into adulthood.

While some “aspiring” adults succeeded in landing jobs in their fields or pursued graduate degrees, many moved back home with their parents and struggled to find employment.  Despite these challenges, the 20-somethings remained hopeful about their prospects, and felt that their lives would ultimately be better than those of their parents.

“The students in our study… graduated into a particularly difficult and unforgiving economic climate, where often they had little more than their own optimism and a diploma to sustain them in a quest to realize their expectations,” Arum and Roska write.

They also suggest approaches to improve and measure learning outcomes in higher education.

Aspiring Adults Adrift again illustrates the challenges facing colleges – which the authors argue spend inadequate attention on academic rigor and critical thinking – to better educate undergraduates and prepare them for the real world.

-Rachel Harrison