Is MSU’s Weekend Culture Hurting its Students’ Chances to Succeed?

Written by: Corey Washington

Primary Source: Zero Ideology

The Weekend Begins on Thursday!

This is one of the first things I heard when I arrived at MSU last summer. Many students go out drinking on Thursday night, and there are few classes on Friday in non-professional schools.  Faculty have a four day teaching schedule. Students get a long weekend. Everyone wins, right? Wrong. Students lose.

I’ve taught at the University of Washington and the University of Maryland. While many faculty members at these schools, including myself, would have preferred to teach less, there was no general opposition to Friday classes. I taught courses MWF in both places. I was a student for longer than any sane person should be. Through BAs at Amherst College, an MS at MIT, and a Phd and Stanford and a PhD at Columbia, Friday was no different from any other day of the week. In fact, my fellow students and I often did not distinguish much between weekdays and the weekend–they were all for studying. There were classes during the week, but you studied for longer on the weekend.

There is a basic equation for success.

Final competitive position = initial competitive position * preparation & strategy

MSU students come in at a competitive disadvantage with respect to students at the schools I’ve worked and studied at. Once on campus, the four day work week means that they get less preparation. When they come out, their competitive position is even weaker.

The mean SAT scores for entering students can be read as a proxy for initial competitive position. Many students at MSU are the first in their families to go to college, and we can expect that they will have lower scores than students at wealthy private schools. However, our students have some ground to make up even with respect to students at other large public universities.

SAT MATH                                 SAT READING                                     ACT

Michigan State University
579
556
24
University of Washington
655
580
27
University of Maryland
College Park
665
635
24

University of Michigan
705
655
30
Columbia University
703
706
33
Amherst College
721
722
31
MIT
755
712
32
Stanford
745
740
33

Source: http://collegeapps.about.com/ and http://www.powerscore.com/

Part of what I enjoy about working at MSU is the opportunity to help our students reach their full potential. To do so, our students will have to work harder than students at schools with higher mean SAT scores.  However, the three day weekend culture at MSU suggests that they get less effective instruction and work less hard.Students learn best when they encounter material on repeated occasions over an extended period of time rather than in short bursts.  Compressing classes at MSU into four days a week works against our students’ ability to learn.Schools with Classes M-F               School with few Friday Classes
University of Washington                Michigan State University
University of Maryland
University of Michigan
Columbia University
Amherst College
MIT
Stanford

Some non-professional departments, e.g. mathematics and languages, regularly have classes on Friday, but this is not the norm at MSU.

Mid-career salary is a reasonable, if imperfect, measure one’s final competitive position in life. Part of the purpose of college is to build up skills and habits that will help students maximize this position.   The skills our students learn at MSU do not close the gap between them and students at schools with higher SAT scores.  On average, MSU students have lower mid-career salaries than students at all of the other schools mentioned and lower job satisfaction than students at most of the other schools.
                                                                                      Salary                                                                 % with 
Starting                                    Mid-career                             High Job Meaning

Michigan State University
45,000
70,000
50
University of Washington
49,000
89,500
52
University of Maryland
College Park
56,000
89,800
54

University of Michigan
54,000
85,400
48
Columbia University
57,600
99,600
48
Amherst College
53,000
104,000
50
MIT
68,600
118,000
57
Stanford
63,100
119,000
57

Source: payscale.com/college-salary-report-2014/full-list-of-schools

Part of this difference may be due to the fact that MSU students tend to take jobs in the midwest, where salaries are lower than they are on the coasts, but this cannot explain the full extent of the difference.

Just ask yourself what would the mid-career salaries of MSU students be if the weekend started on Friday rather than Thursday?

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