Forty years of frosh

For 40 years, UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute has surveyed the values and backgrounds of incoming college freshman. Inside Higher Ed summarizes the report on “The American Freshman” from 1966-2006.

College students come from wealthier families. Family is the number one priority for freshmen with financial success second and helping others in third.

More frosh are Asian-American and Latino; the percentage of blacks has declined to 10.5 percent from a high of 12.5 percent in 1980.

“About two-thirds of students today socialize with people of another race or ethnicity in high school,” the report notes. Researchers express concern about the majority of freshmen who don’t see promoting racial understanding as very important and the 19 percent who think most racial issues have been solved. (I’d guess that the ones who think race isn’t that important are the ones with friends of other races and ethnicities.)

Students’ self-confidence in academic ability continues to soar, with 68.6 percent considering themselves “above average” or in the top 10 percent of their peer group. At the same time, grades are continuing to reinforce those beliefs. Inflation has intensified in the past 20 years, with 24.1 percent of students — a record — reporting an A- high-school average last year. Higher grades are also more likely with more AP and honors courses.

Fewer students say they’re moderates; more call themselves liberal or conservative. Fifty-five percent of conservative and far-right students and 28.5 percent of liberal and far-left students “believe that colleges have the right to ban extreme speakers.”

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