Mike O’Hare’s general point about outcomes vs. activities in the argument about language learning at the college level is completely right.
On the specific point of language competence, however, it should be pointed out that teaching people to actually speak, read, and write a language is not a university’s comparative advantage.
The main reason universities torment their students with languages is to keep the student-teacher ratios in foreign-language literature departments high enough to justify having experts in French, Spanish, etc. literature around. It’s a tossup as to who hates those courses more: the students who know they’re learning nothing of value or the teachers, who didn’t do Ph.D.’s in literature in order to qualify themselves to teach (literally) grammar school. It’s like making math professors teach the multiplication table.
If universities want their alumni to be able to speak second and third languages, they should probably contract out for the teaching service. But it actually makes no sense whatever to try to teach people new languages when the specialized language-learning centers in the brain have shut down, which they do just after puberty.
The time to teach languages is in kindergarten, or better yet in nursery school. John Stuart Mill is considered a prodigy (and his father something of a monster) for having learned Greek between age 2 and age 3. But that was almost certainly easier than learning it later. The problem, of course, is finding teachers at the lower grades who speak English, let alone another language, competently. That, in turn, stems from the insane system in which the prestige and material rewards for teaching rise steadily as the plasticity of the students’ brains declines.