Changes in GRE Scores, Percentage Taking GRE, and Taxpayer Funding per FTE
"Figure 10 plots percentage changes in combined verbal and quantitative GRE scores against percentage changes in total taxpayer-funded aid per FTE (full-time equivalent). It also plots the change in the percentage of bachelor’s degree holders taking the GRE since 1985. What the chart shows is that both the percentage of students taking the GRE and average scores had slight upward trends since 1985. Spending per FTE, however, also trended upward, and at a far faster pace. The fact that rising scores have accompanied increasing participation rates suggests that degree holders might be learning more, bolstering the argument that more degrees has meant rising human capital. But that’s during a time of large spending increases. And remember the big caveat: GRE test takers are almost certainly not representative of all undergraduate students. It is also difficult to know how the test might have changed— overtly or subtly—over time.
Similarly suggestive, but revealing in the other direction, are findings in Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. According to their research, which looked at Collegiate Learning Assessment scores for 2,322 students at a mix of four-year schools, 45 percent of students demonstrated no significant learning in their first two years of college and 36 percent demonstrated no learning in four years. Those are very large percentages of students apparently getting little or no new knowledge from higher education."