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Behav Sci (Basel). 2017 Dec 6;7(4). pii: E81. doi: 10.3390/bs7040081.

Challenging Notions of Academic Entitlement and Its Rise among Liberal Arts College Students.

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Department of Sociology, McDaniel College, Westminster, MD 21157, USA.
Department of Physics, McDaniel College, Westminster, MD 21157, USA.
Department of Sociology, McDaniel College, Westminster, MD 21157, USA.


To assess academic entitlement, we employed a repeated cross-sectional design to compare survey data from two systematic random samples collected eight years apart, in 2009 (n = 225) and 2017 (n = 159), at a small, private, mid-Atlantic liberal arts college. According to an entitlement scale (based on Greenberger et al., 2008), students were less likely to be entitled in 2017 (27%) than in 2009 (41%) (p = 0.02). In 2009, a higher proportion of males than females felt entitled (50% versus 34%, p = 0.05), a sex difference that disappeared by 2017. To explore academic entitlement further, we developed the "PIE" scale to measure the extent to which students believe "participation," "improvement" and "effort" should help determine their course grades. Although the proportion of above average PIE scorers was stable from 2009 (36%) to 2017 (34%), in 2017, more females than males were above average on PIE (26% of males versus 44% of females, p = 0.02). PIE, or the desire for recognition of "academic sweat equity," could reflect students' support for a learning model that goes beyond mastery and is more developmental and process oriented. These data challenge common conceptions of what constitutes academic entitlement, the belief that it is rising, and suggest continued discussions of what factors should determine grades.


academic entitlement; effort; engagement; gender; grading; grit; improvement; mastery; participation

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