Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 63.djvu/163

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THE belief seems to have become general that the American boy of to-day takes his first collegiate degree—A.B. or its equivalent—a good deal older than his father took his, and a great deal older than his grandfather. The present study was undertaken with a view to determining from actual records the measure and rate, if real, of this increase. The plates and tables that are presented herewith tell, in the main, their own story; my task will be little more than the making of a running commentary upon these.

The calculations are based upon nearly twenty thousand cases, and include the graduates of eleven colleges, representing all parts of the country except the extreme west. If undue weight seems to be given to the New England colleges, my excuse is twofold: first, the proportion of colleges that date back fifty years or more is much larger in New England than elsewhere; secondly, I have used all the published material I have been able to find, in the shape of alumni catalogues which give the date of birth of graduates. These have, moreover, been largely supplemented by private information very kindly furnished by the officers of colleges whose general catalogues do not come down to the year 1900.

The results are given in decade periods for the double reason that shorter periods are unwieldy, becoming too numerous, and because the longer period is more reliable. Two-or three-year periods often show what seems a very decided trend in a given direction; but this is in all cases decidedly modified if not entirely obliterated by the addition of the remaining years of the ten. The results thus win stability and evenness.

Before beginning the discussion of the tables and plates, one further word of explanation may be given. It will be noted that in Table I. and elsewhere the median age is used rather than the average age. The reasons for using the median age—the point above which and below which, respectively, one half of the students in each decade graduate—are evident. In the first place, the labor of finding the exact arithmetical average of the age of graduation of 20,000 students would be enormous; and when found it would not give us what we wish, viz., the age at which the students, or a definite percentage of them, actually