- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27 (UPI) — Freshman college students spent less time studying and more time surfing the Internet during the year before enrolling, a new study shows.

Researchers who conducted of the annual study of the nation's college freshman by the University of California at Los Angeles aren't sure what that means.

"It is unclear if computer and Internet use has enabled students to complete their homework in less time, or whether the time students spend using the computer simply takes away from the time that they could be spending on their studies," said Linda Sax, UCLA education professor and director of the survey.

The study conducted last fall finds a record low of 33.4 percent of entering freshmen report studying less than six hours per week. That's down from last year4's 34.9 percent and 47 percent in 1987, when the question was first asked.

The percent of students studying less than one hour per week has nearly doubled from 8.5 percent 15 years ago to 15.9 percent.

Frequent use of personal computers hit a record 8.39 percent in 2002, compared to 82 percent in 2001. The percentage of freshmen who said they used the Internet for research or homework during their last year in high school increased from 74.5 percent to 78.4 percent in a year.

The study by the Higher Education Research institute at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies is in its 37th year. The findings are based on responses by 282,549 students at 437 colleges and universities.

Other findings included:

— Stress decreased from 30.7 percent who were frequently "overwhelmed by all they have to do" in 1999, to the current 26.8 percent.

— Student support of legalizing marijuana has reached 39.7 percent, up from 36.5 percent a year previous and 16.7 percent in 1989.

— Frequent or occasional beer drinking is down to 46.4 percent from 47.1 percent in 2001 and a high of 73.7 percent in 1982. Smoking cigarettes dropped from 8.6 percent to 7.4 percent, an all-time low.

— Forty-five-point-seven percent of freshmen report earning "A" averages in high school, compared to the high of 44.1 percent last year and a low of 17.6 percent in 1968.

— Grades differed by gender, with 50.1 percent of today's entering female freshman reporting "A" averages against 40.4 percent of men.

— Today's students are applying to more colleges with 13.7 percent applying to seven or more colleges. That's up from 13.6 a year ago and 8.3 percent in 1991.

— For the second straight year the number of students who say they are keeping up with current affairs increased. Last fall, 32.9 percent said they kept up compared with 31.4 percent the previous year and a low of 28.1 percent the year before that.

— There was a modest shift toward more moderate and conservative political orientations after five years of gravitating toward the left. Identifying themselves as liberal or far left decreased to 27.8 percent from 19.9 percent. Middle of the road labels increased from 49.5 percent to 50.8 percent and conservatives increased from 19.1 percent to 20 percent.

— Supporters of military spending rose to 45 percent from 21.4 percent in 1993, the last time the question was asked.

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