Increase Student Success by Reducing Academic Entitlement

Individuals who take personal responsibility are more successful.

Posted Feb 18, 2018

One of the main missions of higher education involves helping students succeed in their academic pursuits and in starting fulfilling and rewarding careers, so that they all become contributing members of a civilized society in a global village.

Nevertheless, for too many students in America, the mission is not achieved.  According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, about 40 percent of all students at four-year colleges, and over 70 percent who begin in two-year colleges, have not completed a degree or certificate six years later.

Many factors have been recognized as diminishing student academic performance, including poor time management, stress, alcohol and/or drug consumption, lack of intrinsic interest in the subject matter, learned helplessness, sleep deprivation, and disadvantaged social or cultural backgrounds. Colleges have addressed those factors through their student success centers and various programs.

However, one important issue impeding student success gets little attention from the administrators, which involves a personality or attitude variable called academic entitlement (e.g., Chowning, & Campbell, 2009). According to their research, academic entitlement is defined as the tendency to possess an expectation of academic success without taking required personal responsibility for achieving the result. The belief or tendency can be operationalized as including two indicators: students’ externalized responsibility for their academic success (e.g., the belief that “It is the instructor’s responsibility to make sure that I learn the material of a course”) and self-serving entitled expectations about professors and course policies (e.g., the tendency to demand undeserved credits and blame others/situations for the self failure). At least two explanations are suggested about academic entitlement. One of them refers to student consumerism that students perceive their education as delivered goods owned to them in exchange for tuition dollars (Jeffres, Barclay, & Stolte, 2014). The other explanation hints that psychopathy as one factor predicts externalized responsibility and narcissism predicts entitled expectations (Turnipseed, & Cohen, 2015).

Studies have shown that students with highest scoring academic entitlement were related to their perception of what professors should do for them. On the other hand, students with lower levels of academic entitlement were more academically successful than more academically entitled students (Jeffres et al., 2014). The study by Anderson, Halberstadt, & Aitken (2013) found that greater entitlement (i.e., an unrealistic belief about one deserves) was associated with poorer final exam marks, particularly among students for whom the class was objectively challenging. Additionally, academic entitlement increases student incivility. In a lab setting, the more entitled students evaluated the researcher more negatively than less entitled students (e.g., Chowning, & Campbell, 2009).

To increase student success by reducing academic entitlement, staff and professors need to educate students about the harm of the beliefs on their learning, emphasizing that knowledge or information cannot be delivered like a commodity. Learning is a discovering and arduous process. Knowledge must be processed, evaluated, analyzed, critiqued, integrated, embraced, and applied, and it cannot be mastered by superficially perusing some writings. Because avoidance, fear, or denial of personal responsibility for one’s actions is accountable for various misconducts, individuals who take personal responsibility are likely not only to succeed academically but also to be ethical and capable citizens.



Anderson, D., Halberstadt, J., & Aitken, R. (2013). Entitlement attitudes predict students’ poor performance in challenging academic conditions. International Journal of Higher Education, 2, 151–158.

Chowning, K., & Campbell, N. J. (2009). Development and validation of a measure of academic entitlement: Individual differences in students’ externalized responsibility and entitled expectations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(4), 982-997. doi:10.1037/a001635

Jeffres, M. N., Barclay, S. M., & Stolte, S. K. (2014). Academic Entitlement and Academic Performance in Graduating Pharmacy Students.  Am J Pharm Educ. 78(6): 116. doi: 10.5688/ajpe78611

Turnipseed, D. L., & Cohen, S. R. (2015). Academic entitlement and socially aversive personalities: Does the Dark Triad predict academic entitlement? Personality And Individual Differences, 8272-75. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2015.03.00

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