A number of points have already got me thinking. First, students in college have little to no academic focus. Perhaps you've met one of those described as "drifting dreamers": students with "high ambitions, but no clear life plans for reaching them" (3). These students enter college and are largely "academically adrift". What was not surprising to me since I have experienced is that despite lacking academic focus college students are not suffering in their classes with lower grades. Why? Because, according to the authors, students have developed "the art of college management". This skill refers to their ability succeed not by hard work, but by "controlling college schedules, taming professors and limiting workload" (4). Students "preferentially enroll in classes with instructors who grade leniently" (4). At my institution, students vote with their feet. I've learned to adjust my course expectations so that I don't have a great migration after the first week of school. One does not have the luxury to stand on principle and demand rigor, when your classes sizes are monitored and less than 10 is unacceptable.
Second, Arum and Roksa make the point that the academic environment on most college and university campuses does not promote academics as its primary element of culture. Today what is encouraged is athletics, social life, and extra-curricular activities. These say nothing to the fact that many students are now working a heavy part-time job of over 20 hours a week.
Third, a consumeristic approach to education and "credentialism" are two interesting and interrelated points. Students today for a number of cultural reasons view education from a purely consumeristic perspective. This approach is fueled by the idea of credentialism. The assumption is that an education serves as a means of admission to a job or future success. What one needs is a credential to get a job or attain a certain position in the market place; thus, one gets an education purely for this end. With these two assumptions at work it is no wonder that students seek to receive services within an academic institution that "will allow them, as effortlessly and comfortably as possible" attain "valuable educational credentials that can be exchanged for later labor market success" (17).
Fourth, Arum and Roksa suggest that part of the problem with the lack of learning taking place in colleges and universities is that professors are encouraged to care more about their profession than about their students. This was a difficult pill to swallow, but I do think that there is a tendency, at least for me, to want to devote less time preparing lectures, teaching, grading, and advising and more time to scholarly activity.