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Really bad news for college slackers

Here's some really bad news for college slackers: Not taking college seriously catches up with you after graduation.

College graduates who made the least progress academically are now finding themselves at higher risk for unemployment, credit card debt and - shudder - living back home with mom and dad.

Those are the disturbing findings generated by a new study that was conducted by the same academics who released the bombshell book last year entitled, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.

The provocative and highly cited book created a firestorm when academics concluded that 45% of students completing their sophomore year in college didn't demonstrate any significant improvement in writing or critical thinking and reasoning. In addition, 36% of the students in the study had made no progress by the time they were ready to graduate.

Here is a CBS post to catch you up on the previous research:

Study: college students not learning much

The researchers separated the slackers from other students by looking at the results of a widely used test called the Collegiate Learning Assessment or CLA.

What happened to the slackers?

In the new research, the college grads, who had scored in the bottom quintile of the CLA when they were in school, were now three times more likely to be unemployed (9.6%) compared to their peers in the top quintile (3.1%).

The slackers were also nearly two times as likely to be living at home with parents (35%) compared with the top students (18%).

The underachievers also were more likely to have significant credit card debt, 51% vs. 37%.

Until now, it's been difficult for researchers to link academic performance with what happens to college students after graduation. The results of this study, which will be published in a book, were so significant that the researchers decided to release them early.

While the lousy job market hasn't helped the fortunes of the slackers, the disadvantages that the poorer performing students are experiencing would probably still exist in a healthier economy, suggests co-author Richard Arum, who is a professor at New York University.

Take home message

So what's the take home message of this study? The idea that all you need is a college degree to succeed is laughable.

Parents and teenagers should spend more time asking about the academics at a college rather than dwelling on the quality of the cafeteria food, the size of the dorms and win-loss record of the football team.

College graduate image courtesy of Flickr user Son of Groucho.