Optimizing Undergraduate Student Study Time based on Future Income

Baptista, Perry
Undergraduate college freshmen are told they should expect to spend between two and three hours studying outside of class for each hour inside class. There has been little to no research, however, on whether this expectation is reasonable or optimal based on the future return students will see to their time investment. A regression on income using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997, determines that grade point average (GPA), work experience, age, SAT scores, college major, and parental income are significant determinants of future income. Grade point average is a function of both study hours and academic aptitude, and students experience diminishing GPA returns for an increase in study time. With the controls for aptitude and other GPA-influencing variables, the regression coefficient on GPA largely captures gains to studying. If a student completing a four-year, 120 credit hour degree in a semester system studied the minimum recommended two hours per in class hour, the maximum return per study hour would be less than $6.00 per hour. While this return may compound over the working life, students do not appear to be accounting for compounding in their study time decisions, according to data from the National Survey of Student Engagement. A hypothetical student is constructed to illustrate the individual study time decision making process, as each student will choose a different optimal point to maximize their income return per study hour. Increasing student study time will require cooperation across universities to stop grade inflation and create incentives that reward studying rather than other measures.
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University of Wyoming Libraries