Texas higher education faces a quality crisis. Students receive higher grades now than ever before, even though studies show that too many students learn too little. Yet in spite of inflated grades and a diluted curriculum, fewer than half of the students at Texas’ public four-year colleges graduate within six years of enrollment. 

While this is a Texas problem, it is far from Texas’ alone. The academic world was rocked by the 2011 publication of the landmark study of collegiate learning, Academically Adrift. Adrift tracked a national cohort of college students for four years, measuring their fundamental academic skills—critical thinking, complex reasoning, and clear writing—in both their freshman and senior years, using the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). The results are alarming: Adrift found that 36% of college students nationally show little to no increase in fundamental academic skills after four years invested in college.