This Michael Skube article is a must-read. Supposedly smart students whose reading begins and ends with what they're assigned are not smart.
I am sure that colleges know this. Why else was one of the first questions of my admissions interview about my favorite books that I read on my own? Someone who isn't curious enough to go beyond the required reading isn't likely to give anything more than the bare minimum in other areas, either.
But Skube's point is that the lack of reading by today's students is leading to a different crisis--one of communication:
How does one explain the inability of college students to read or write at even a high school level? One explanation, which owes as much to the culture as to the schools, is that kids don't read for pleasure. And because they don't read, they are less able to navigate the language. If words are the coin of their thought, they're working with little more than pocket change.His students can't understand him when he uses words like impetus, advocate, satire, pith, or brevity. They call every book, of any kind, a novel. They are, as Skube says, afflicted--and they don't even know what the word means.