What does it say that education experts estimate that college freshmen are reading at a seventh-grade level? Well, if you were measuring tweets, 33% of them test at a fourth-grade level. Justin Bieber’s tweets test in at a fifth-grade level. President Obama? Seventh-grade. So it might not be such a big deal that college students are reading at a seventh-grade level given the prevalence of social media.

Still, only 14% of Americans (and 11% of business leaders) feel that college graduates have the skills needed to succeed in the workforce. Obviously, not all postsecondary institutions are alike, and each has its own particular blend of students with varying degrees of intellectual competencies. But just what is the actual state of a college student’s reading ability? Here at CollegeStats.org, we decided to find out.

Using location data attached to tweets, we analyzed how often these social messages occurred in the areas surrounding thousands of colleges across the country. We used seven different readability scores on tweets posted in the vicinity of a given school and compared the results to each college’s enrollment. Read on to find out which colleges rank highest for Twitter reading ability.

WHICH SCHOOLS RANK THE HIGHEST?

well-read-colleges

We analyzed data of four-year universities with at least 1,000 enrolled undergraduates and 100 tweets over the course of one month within 1 mile of campus center. Of the 10 best-read colleges, Worcester State University topped the stats. The average reading score is 27.95. Worcester is also ranked No. 116 in U.S. News and World Report’s list of Regional Universities in the North.

At Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the average reading score came in second at 21.05. Bellevue College in Bellevue, Washington, completes the list with an average score of 14.07. It appears that the students at these universities use their social media to convey complex information.

Location could also affect the trend as well. Of the top 10 most well-read colleges, each are within 100 miles of a larger metropolitan area: Boston, New Orleans, and Seattle are just a few of the top related cities.

EACH STATE’S HIGHEST RANKED SCHOOL

Colleges with the highest Twitter reading level , by State

What do Pitzer College in California and the University of Vermont (UVM) have in common? They each top our list of best-read colleges (based on our Twitter analysis) in their respective states.

Pitzer College is an elite liberal arts college ranked No. 36 in National Liberal Arts Colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Its acceptance rate for 2015 was about 13%; its average GPA is around 3.93. It’s a hub for renewable resources with 48% of campus buildings being LEED Platinum or Gold certified. Perhaps environmental awareness reflects reading ability.

UVM has an undergraduate population of 10,081 (compared with Pitzer at just over 1,075) and its students are the best-read in the state of Vermont. It has a green building program and a LEED-certified student center (The Davis Center). The number of in-state students admitted for the class of 2019 was at an all-time low, 480 out of 2,400 admitted students. Perhaps its careful culling of the in-state student population can account for the complexity of its tweets.

Arizona State University in Tempe is ranked as the best-read college in Arizona. Arizona boasts five state universities and over 30 community and state colleges. Student satisfaction and ratings are generally high. Energy levels are contagious; bikes are abundant and more plentiful than cars. The grounds are well-kept, and even though it’s geographically an imposing size, many find a niche to call their own. Contentment could equal a high average reading score.

 

DO SAT SCORES CORRELATE TO AVERAGE READING SCORES?

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All of the schools listed with the smallest discrepancy between SAT scores and average Twitter reading score, display no such disparity. At College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, the average SAT score is 925 and the average reading score is 15.15, a difference of 0.05. Colorado Mesa University has an average SAT just slightly better at 966.5 and an average reading score of 15.63, a difference of 0.06. There has been a heated dispute as to the relevancy of the SAT and if it teaches anything exactly. A Washington Post article claims, “All these years later, we know the test never really did measure anybody’s aptitude to do well in college.” Basically, test scores alone cannot measure everything.

College-Reading-Level_4_v5

Most of the over 400 schools reviewed on Twitter had corresponding college reading scores and average SAT scores.

TRACKING TRENDS AT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

Overall, not all top colleges and universities have corresponding Twitter reading scores; some low-performing colleges with below-average SAT scores have some of the highest average Twitter reading scores.

Remember, some of the most successful politicians and entertainers have Twitter reading scores below many of the college-related tweets we reviewed. And in the same way, these scores do not wholly reflect the current state of education in the U.S.

Gauging the Twitter reading score of college students throughout the U.S. is just one feature of college life and culture today. At CollegeStats.org, we offer a full range of cutting-edge analysis of historical and emerging trends in postsecondary education, incorporating data from a diverse array of sources. Check out CollegeStats.org today to find out more fascinating facts we’ve discovered about colleges and universities across the nation.

METHODOLOGY

Starting with a dataset of over 3 million Tweets coming from within 1 mile of a college campus center, we narrowed the focus of the project to public and private four-year universities with at least 1,000 students enrolled for credit and at least 100 total tweets coming from within the boundary. This gave us a final set of over 600,000 tweets coming from more than 500 different universities across the U.S.

Seven different readability scores were used for this project to account for any shortcomings associated with any single readability score.

  • Automated Readability Index
  • Coleman-Liau Index
  • Dale-Chall Readability Score
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade
  • Gunning Fog Index
  • Linsear Write Formula
  • SMOG Index

Information for the best and worst college in every state was limited to at least 100 tweets over the course of one month that came from within 1 mile of campus – except in Alaska and North Dakota, where all previously qualified universities were included.

When comparing with SAT data from the Institute of Education Sciences, the average for each school was divided by the maximum average in the data set to get a percentage of total to normalize the data and make them comparable. The difference between each percent of total was used as the disparity between average SAT score and Twitter reading score.

Fair Use Statement

You are welcome to share the images on this page. If you do, please credit the authors by providing a link back to this page. This way your readers can learn more about the project and any of the related research.