By nearly every measure, college graduates, as a group, are more successful. Their incomes are higher and their career options are better. A recent Gallup poll affirms those articles of faith. More than 90 percent of respondents said that it’s important for individuals to obtain a degree beyond high school.
As a result, it’s also an important societal goal to increase the number of people with college or similar degrees. Three-fourths further believed that better job prospects lead to a higher quality of life.
In sum, a college education is both a personal and public good.
What’s getting in the way?
While we believe that college education is important, we recognize that not everyone has a chance. The reason most often cited is money. Eighty percent felt that higher education is not affordable for all.
This belief runs deep. People without degrees reported that they’d not taken even the first steps to locating financial aid. They’d not talked with school counselors, filled out FAFSA applications, or asked about programs that offer credit for work experience.
The assistance often comes in the form of loans, leading to debts that sometimes reach six figures.
Is it worth it?
For all our faith in the college experience, another disturbing realization is creeping in. College graduates aren’t prepared to do the work that employers need. A January 2015 survey of employers showed that 60 percent of hiring managers believed that students needed improvement on basic skills for entry level positions.
The employer survey noted,
“… written and oral communication, teamwork skills, ethical decision-making, critical thinking, and the ability to apply knowledge in real-world settings are the most highly valued by employers.”
The sad irony is that the Gallup survey respondents believed that college helps its students develop skills that are needed for meaningful employment. Three-fourths of those surveyed believe that employers valued the knowledge and skills that came from a college education. Meanwhile, a similar percentage of employers are seeing graduates who lack those very same skills.
The Census Bureau reports that the number of students attending two-year colleges has dropped. These schools, an important and affordable first step to a certificate or further degree, have seen a 10 percent decline after a decade of steady growth.
Schools are changing, albeit slowly, to meet the needs of a diverse population. Most of the changes, however, are in the mechanics of education, such as financing, flexible schedules, and credit for work and life experiences. Substantive change in the content – what we teach and how – is more important, but harder to effect.
We’re willing to pay for college if we believe that it’s worth it. We are not willing to pay for an educational program that takes our money and leaves us unprepared for work.
At Focus EduVation, we share your commitment to the development of real-world analytical thinking. Our techniques and tools help educators equip students with lifelong learning skills.