Career/Tech Education

Unregulated for-profits receive big chunk of military spouse tuition aid

Largely unregulated for-profit vocational colleges, which can't receive federal student aid, collect 40 percent of military spouse tuition benefits.

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Education Department raises hackles over clock hour definition

The Education Department's take on the definition of "clock hour" programs is too broad and could unfairly cut into federal aid, say a Texas state agency and for-profits.

For-profits lag behind other colleges in student outcomes

New research attempts to better compare the performance of for-profit colleges with nonprofits by controlling for differences in student populations, with largely negative results for the industry.

Google Gifts $50 Million to HBCUs

Google announced a $50 million unrestricted grant to 10 HBCUs Thursday. The funds will go toward supporting scholarships, career support programs and technical infrastructure for in-person and remote learning.

 Leaders of the institutions receiving the funds applauded the gift.

The grant shows “a firm commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and an appreciation of the value HBCUs bring with regards to the talent and ingenuity of our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Larry Robinson, president of Florida A&M University, said in a press release.

The move follows Google’s Pathways to Tech initiative, announced in February, which created an HBCU Tech Advisory Board intended to boost equitable computing education for HBCU students and open up opportunities for Black employees in tech fields.

Google is among a wide range of companies and philanthropists who have made hefty donations to HBCUs after protests swept the country last summer. Public figures such as Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, and MacKenzie Scott, a writer and the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, have given millions of dollars to HBCUs.

“These institutions are actively shaping the next generation of Black leaders and are helping build a more diverse workforce across all industries,” Melonie Parker, chief diversity officer at Google, said in a press release. “This investment further solidifies our commitment to providing access and opportunities for underrepresented groups in tech.”

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Bipartisan bill would authorize millions in federal grant funding for work-based learning programs

The ACCESS to Careers Act would be a critical first step in developing programs that effectively train a post-pandemic workforce, advocates say.

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College policies keep minority students underrepresented in technical fields (opinion)

In 1944, the CIA’s predecessor -- the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) -- released an internal how-to guide on the subject of sabotage. The Simple Sabotage Field Manual distinguishes between traditional violent sabotage and simple sabotage, which is “based on universal opportunities to make faulty decisions [or] adopt a non-cooperative attitude.”

In order to aid the war effort in Nazi-occupied Europe, a simple saboteur “should discover what types of faulty decisions and non-cooperation are normally found in his kind of work and … devise his sabotage so as to enlarge that ‘margin for error.’”

The field manual provides a litany of examples of simple sabotage, from letting tools grow dull to refraining from cleaning machinery and even forgetting to put toilet paper in washrooms. But the highlight is the section on “General Interference with Organizations”:

  1. Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
  2. Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your points by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
  3. When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible -- never fewer than five.
  4. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  5. Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
  6. Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to reopen the question of the advisability of that decision.

And if the potential saboteur happens to be a manager:

  1. Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products.
  2. Multiply procedures and clearances … See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.

Faculty members and administrators at higher education institutions are familiar with such tactics. And when deployed at colleges and universities, pertaining to the socioeconomic mobility of America’s underrepresented minorities, they can be fairly called sabotage.

***

Never before have colleges and universities been more aware of the myriad challenges faced by Black and brown Americans and our shared responsibility to combat systemic racism. Much of the attention in the past year has been on admissions. Selective institutions struggle to enroll classes that mirror the overall population. According to the Hechinger Report, “15 state flagships had at least a 10-point gap between the percentage of Black public high school graduates in their states in 2019 and the Black share of freshmen enrolled that fall.” At the University of Maryland at College Park, the gap was 24 points for Black students and 7 points for Latino students (14 percent of high school graduates, 7 percent of UMD freshmen).

The pan-bandonment of standardized tests for the current admissions cycle has improved matters. We already knew that jettisoning the SAT and ACT would increase first-time enrollment of underrepresented minorities by about 10 percent. And we’ve seen that much and more in just one year. Harvard increased Black admitted students as a percentage of total admissions from 14.8 to 18 percent; USC went from 6 to 8.5 percent; NYU from 27 percent underrepresented minorities to 29 percent. NYU hired 50 new readers in an attempt to fulfill the promise of holistic review without the distracting glare of quantified test scores.

The other areas where we’ve seen rapid changes are faculty diversity, new courses and programs, and cultural centers. Colleges have been busy reacting to student demands by announcing new degrees in African American studies and Latinx studies, adding diverse faculty, and adding or increasing investment in centers and programs that support diverse students.

But these good intentions run up against the hard reality that all postsecondary programs aren’t created equal; different majors lead to very different economic outcomes. Of the 25 most remunerative majors, two are economics and business, and the rest are scientific and technical. (Note: while higher education institutions continue to call them STEM, like DeVry University president Tom Monahan, I’m trying to wean myself from the habit, because the only employers who understand STEM are florists. Employers want candidates with specific technical skills for tech jobs that are projected to grow at twice the rate of other occupations. And by the way, as Monahan also notes, they don’t think of themselves as employers. They’re businesses delivering products or services to customers.)

It’s true that income variance within a major is wide and that the top 25 percent of English majors make more than the bottom 25 percent of chemical engineers. But it’s also generally agreed upon that in terms of socioeconomic mobility, for most students, choice of major matters more than choice of college. Many schools are effectively two separate, segregated institutions: technical and scientific programs, and the rest.

As Jeff Selingo noted in College Unbound, higher education leaders are always touting the value of arts, humanities and social sciences programs to promote problem solving and critical thinking. But as Georgetown’s Tony Carnevale told him, “An engineering degree is the best problem-solving degree in the curriculum. The more specific and technical the degree, the better graduates do out of the gate.”

So while most Georgetown students (and students at the other 199 selective institutions) will do fine regardless of their choice of major, in today’s America, underrepresented minorities completing nontechnical degrees at nonselective schools, which 90-plus percent of students attend, are attempting to launch careers with three strikes. (And if they have substantial student loan debt, with four.)

Sadly, the percentage of Black graduates in technical programs is declining. Whereas Black students once captured nearly 10 percent of bachelor’s degrees in technical majors, today it’s only 7 percent. Latino students are also underrepresented: 12 percent of technical graduates versus 15 percent of all graduates.

These numbers are scary not only in terms of racial justice and socioeconomic mobility, but also for what they say about the future of technology. Blacks and Latinos are already underrepresented in the tech workforce. In some of the most important areas, like clean energy and artificial intelligence, the shortfall is dramatic. And if underrepresented minorities aren’t sufficiently represented as these technologies race forward, the results may exacerbate or establish new forms of systemic racism.

In response to the national awakening to systemic racism, colleges and universities plan to usher many more Black and brown students in the door. But for far too many, the passage won’t lead to technical programs or degrees. If colleges and universities truly cared about underrepresented minorities, they’d take a hard look at the barriers that are keeping Black and brown students from entering and succeeding in their highest-value programs.

***

The problem isn’t lack of interest. Underrepresented minorities are just as interested in technical programs. But completion rates are much lower. While 58 percent of white students who start technical degrees end up completing them, only 43 percent of Latino and 34 percent of Black students do. The main reason is switching majors. As UT Austin and Florida International University researchers found in 2019, “the probability of a Black student switching majors rather than persisting in the [technical] major field is about 19 percentage points higher than the probability of a white student; the corresponding probability for a Latino student is about 13 percentage points higher than that of a white student.”

Here are four reasons why Black and brown students are more likely to switch than fight their way through:

  1. Outdated prerequisites

Many scientific and technical courses list prerequisites that underrepresented minority students are less likely to have taken in high school and that have little to no bearing on the actual subject matter. Calculus is a primary culprit. And while it’s true that completion of calculus in high school is traditionally a strong predictor of technical degree completion, departments and faculty that continue to insist on calculus as a prerequisite are perpetuating a very vicious circle.

  1. Weed-out courses

As former Massachusetts governor Jane Swift noted recently, “Reason gazillion we don’t have more STEM grads? Daughter (currently has a 4.0 in her math major) being told Computer Science req’d course is ‘impossible’ -- peers say avg for first exam is 15 percent.” Similar results are found in intro to CS, calculus (25 percent of students who take Calculus I at a research university receive a D or F; 23 percent receive a C), precalculus (only 50 percent of students who enroll in precalculus make it through to Calculus I), or developmental math at a community college (30 percent successfully complete, and only 20 percent of those go on to complete a college-level math course). According to President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, most scientific and technical degree programs operate according to the tradition that there are those who have the ability to succeed, there are those who don’t, and the department has the wisdom to know the difference. A disproportionately large percentage of those who are “weeded out” are underrepresented minorities.

  1. Boring lectures

Nearly all of these outdated prerequisites and weed-out courses are delivered the way they were traditionally taught: to less diverse populations in large lecture classes. While some of this is a product of physical plant -- colleges have too many lecture theaters and not enough smaller classrooms for technical classes -- there’s plenty of evidence that active learning models (e.g., classroom discussions, group projects, cooperative learning, student evaluation of each other’s work) contribute mightily to student outcomes. By deploying active learning across the curriculum, Ponce Health Sciences University has dramatically improved technical program completion and board passage rates for a majority minority population. New products like Chem101 simplify the process of transforming lectures into active learning environments. Nonetheless, studies indicate that most math and science faculty continue to lecture at students. In engineering, 82 percent of faculty are aware of the benefits of evidence-based teaching strategies, but only 47 percent self-report having adopted any.

  1. Nonnative English speakers

In addition to being uninspiring, far too many scientific and technical instructors are nonnative English speakers. While universities have large populations of international graduate students in these fields, relying on them as instructors or to lead discussion groups for prerequisite or weed-out courses contributes to switching.

I’m trying to think of a term that connotes how traditions and legacy processes continuously produce dire outcomes for underrepresented minorities. Let me think …

How about systemic racism?

***

In undertaking to combat systemic racism, colleges and universities have focused on external systems where they are not the prime racist mover. The irony is that higher education’s own systems and traditions are the primary barrier keeping minority students from the most valuable programs. If colleges and universities were serious about systemic racism, they’d look in the mirror.

Making changes to prerequisites, weed-out courses and instruction in scientific and technical programs would require circumventing departmental committees, procedures and proper “channels.” What a headache that would be! Per the OSS field manual, inaction in this regard is simple sabotage.

Turns out it’s worse than this. Rather than making fundamental changes to traditions and processes, colleges and universities have focused on faculty diversity, new courses and programs, and cultural centers. But increasing investment in these areas simply makes it more likely that Black and brown students switch out of computer science and engineering to majors that are less likely to provide a comparable socioeconomic boost. The OSS field manual wouldn’t pass this off as simple sabotage. It’s the more traditional kind.

Ryan Craig is author of College Disrupted and A New U: Faster + Cheaper Alternatives to College and managing director at University Ventures. Follow him on Twitter @ryancraigap.

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Let's not underestimate the value of short-term workforce credentials (letter)

To the Editor:

A recent op-ed, “Letting Employers Off the Hook,” drastically distorts the value of quality short-term credential programs to both workers seeking new career opportunities and employers in need of a stronger talent pipeline.

Those of us who are working directly with students and employers every day know the meaningful impact of short-term credential programs. Here in Virginia, the Fast Forward Program is connecting workers with affordable credential programs that quickly provide skills and training for 40 of the state’s most high-demand careers, like transportation, manufacturing, and information technology.

This program is a lifeline to workers who are either unemployed or looking for an avenue to quickly gain new skills to compete for in-demand jobs and better salaries. It’s also tremendously important to our business owners, many of whom are struggling to hire the qualified candidates to fill job openings.

Today, thousands of Virginians have enrolled in Fast Forward training programs with a 90 percent completion rate. Most importantly, the state reports that the majority of Fast Forward graduates see a 25-50 percent or higher wage gain after earning their credential. Research has also proven that allowing students to use Pell Grant funds to pay for short-term credential programs results in higher enrollment and completion rates.

A short-term credential that leads to a better job and higher income can make a tremendous difference for a family. For example, across the Virginia Community College System, students who earn a credential to become a certified nursing assistant increased their pre-certification income by 81 percent. VCCS also offers 32 credentials where the average post-training wages exceeded $50,000 annually (ranging from $50,222-$136,181). That’s life changing.

For some, earning several credentials may lead to an associate degree, or even an eventual bachelor's degree. For others, the credentials are sufficient to secure a satisfying job with benefits and a solid middle-class income to support their family – and some may say that’s what really matters.

As we work to recover from the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic, investing in rebuilding the middle class, efficiently strengthening the workforce talent pipeline, and helping more Americans access valuable postsecondary learning opportunities must be a top priority. I think we can all agree on that.

But we have to put an end to the false narrative that a bachelor’s degree is the only path to a fulfilling career and a livable salary. Quite frankly, it’s shortsighted to assume everyone has the time, resources and interest in dedicating four years or longer to earn a diploma. Instead, let’s focus on empowering all Americans by meeting them where they are and opening – rather than closing – the doors to a better future.

--Glenn DuBois
Chancellor, Virginia Community College System

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Students report mixed feelings about virtual job recruiting

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College students appreciate flexibility from online job interviews but worry they would connect better with potential employers in person.

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Essays on how to improve connections to careers for undergraduates

Inside Higher Ed and the Strada Education Network hosted a virtual event last month with current college students on career exploration during the pandemic. We asked several experts and one of the student panelists to write essays about how colleges and universities can better bridge gaps between education and the job market. Those essays follow.
-- Paul Fain

Student Employment in the Pandemic

By Jaime Nunez

As an organization that employs college students, we have experienced firsthand many of the themes discussed in the “In Their Own Voices” webinar. Like these students, the learners we work with every day have faced a rapid succession of challenges and adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through their experiences, there is so much we can learn about how best to support their success.

As Kasey Fox asked in the webinar, "In coursework, how can we teach students soft and hard skills -- things that students will need to know after college?” We understand the challenge. In fact, this question was the driving force behind launching Education at Work (EAW) in 2012. Our goal, then and now, is to employ college students on behalf of innovative business clients in technology services, financial services and health care, empowering students to minimize their college loan debt while gaining practical work experience, developing their skills and expanding their professional networks so they can transition into strong careers after college.

When the pandemic reached the United States last spring, over 1,000 students were working with EAW on-site at campus locations around the country.

We’ve all seen the disruption such changes have caused and how students’ plans and support systems have been impacted. In a recent Strada Public Viewpoint survey, 53 percent of college students reported they had jobs or internships canceled because of the pandemic.

EAW students can be particularly vulnerable to those disruptions: 40 percent are first-generation college students; 72 percent say our tuition assistance program -- up to $5,250 per year -- is critical to funding their education. With their needs in mind, we made a decision that many employers would find risky -- and it has paid off.

Since shifting to remote work, we have seen an increase in the overall productivity of our student population. Without the need to commute to a physical location, students are working more hours without having to sacrifice their academic coursework -- all while increasing metrics and key performance indicators for our clients. And while we know external factors may be involved, EAW’s retention through the pandemic is at an all-time high.

Certainly, there were challenges and risks to consider -- among them security compliance, employee performance and financial investments for necessary work-from-home equipment and technology. But we trusted our student workforce to continue to deliver as they shifted and adjusted to this new way of working.

Along the way, we identified three lessons that are important to managing student employees remotely:

  1. Value the benefits of personal communication. Without having a supervisor they can see in person and turn to for questions, our students must rely on one another through virtual and digital channels. So we have created more frequent informal check-ins and virtual events to increase students’ sense of connection. We’re finding the personal touch of a phone call has a larger engagement impact than ever before. Similarly, the investment in a personal experience -- such as a care package or a personalized gift -- carries more weight and influences retention now more than ever.
  2. Impress the importance of structure and responsibility. We’ve helped our students understand the importance of professional etiquette when working at home. We’ve also been candid in outlining how the conveniences of remote working also come with additional responsibilities -- including the need to set work-life boundaries. We work to ensure each of their home-work environments meets our security and compliance standards, and we also adjusted our hiring process to include new questions to identify those who could meet the needed daily job expectations on their own.
  3. Seek partners to support student well-being. At first, our students were hugely appreciative of the work-from-home situation -- there was a sense of novelty to it. But once that novelty began to wear off and interpersonal connections were lost, we saw increased mental health issues set in. As these issues arose, we connected with our university partners to ensure every team member was equipped with the mental health and counseling information their institutions were providing. At the end, leveraging our relationship with university partners, we were able to triage student issues -- ultimately leading us to retain students at EAW and their universities.

Despite the uncertainty, we’re learning from this experience and seeking the best ways to thrive while meeting our mission to see our students succeed. And we know the best way for our organization to thrive is to ask our students what they need to do so themselves. Working together -- colleges, employers and, most importantly, student workers -- everyone will benefit.

Jaime Nunez is president of Education at Work, a Strada Education Network affiliate.


“That’s great and all, but how will it help me get a job?” -- A professor’s reflection on career connections and course content

By Timothy L. Hawthorne

He sat in the back row of my introduction to geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping class. He looked uninterested as I lectured on the theoretical and societal challenges of working with GIS and mapping technologies. I had just finished what I thought was an illuminating point about the tracking and surveillance challenges of location-based mapping applications that are rampant on our smartphones and tablets.

I talked about the ethical implications and limits of using such technology to map people. I let the class know that we could perhaps use these same mapping technologies for the “public good” if we encourage participatory and community-based uses of the technologies. I asked the class to think about how to involve everyday citizens in mapping work and in environmental and social decision making.

The hand of the student in the back row shot up into the air. I was encouraged. I thought I said something that piqued his interest. Instead, I received a rather critical, inquisitive look and he said, “That’s great and all, but how will it help me get a job?” A few vigorous head nods ensued from those around him. I could sense I was losing the room and my audience.

That moment happened about eight years ago in one of my undergraduate courses. At first, the question bothered me. It made me wonder why the student couldn’t figure out how the elaborate critical theory and GIS point I just discussed mattered to him. But as I’ve reflected more over the last few years, I agree with the spirit of his critical question. As a professor, my hope is that students take knowledge gained in my courses and apply it to something they are passionate to find a career they love. This student’s question revealed what I was missing. Maybe my connection between critical GIS theory, mapping data, course content and careers wasn’t as apparent as I had thought?

Students want a clear pathway to their next step. They want their classroom learning, and their investment in time and coursework, to lead somewhere. I was failing that student and his classmates not because my content was uninteresting and unimportant, but because it appeared unconnected to a career outcome, which in this student’s case included hopefully becoming an environmental GIS analyst.

How could I better connect course content to career aspirations? For that I turned to my colleagues in industry. I encouraged my students to attend regional user group meetings and conferences with GIS industry leaders at all levels, and I joined them at these industry events as well. I invited these same industry colleagues to engage formally in my classes and research team meetings as part of careers sessions and outside class in informal career dialogues in panels, at conferences and over Zoom in the COVID-19 world. And I built in time for students to ask me and these industry experts questions about career development and networking.

A seismic shift followed, for both my students and me.

The energy and excitement from my students in my courses and in our research group hit new levels. The students asked more questions, they wrote more emails, they met more people and they showed a renewed interest in learning technical skills in a way that considered the implications of these technologies in society (that lesson I was trying to make in class back then). The new excitement wasn’t because I told them these skills and ideas were important, but because industry leaders (including some of their recent peers who graduated and had success on the market) told them these skills and ideas were important.

The shift in mind-set and inclusion of new industry voices allowed our students to see the connections between course content and their career goals. And importantly, it centered their possibilities and aspirations at the core of their learning. This shift made me a better faculty member. I fed off the energy in the classroom, in our team meetings and every time I received an email of excitement saying a student had made an industry connection or landed a new position.

For faculty that are hesitant to integrate more professional development and career readiness training into their courses for fear of it “watering down” their course content, my advice would be that it is OK. It’s enhancing content, not replacing it. Adding in career discussions, dialogues with industry contacts and talking about cover letters and résumés allows our students to make connections between our course content and their career interests. To me, at the end of the day, that’s what I hope happens as a professor.

The student in the back row with the frustrated career question helped me recognize the power of career connections in my own course content. Now, more than ever, in an uncertain economic time, we can do more to better connect our student learning experiences to career goals. And by the way, the student with the frustrating question -- he ended up landing his environmental GIS position. And that point I made about critical theory and people mattering in mapping? He said that helped him land the big role at the company he ended up working for because they liked that he understood that people mattered in the technology and that communicating with stakeholders was a core value of their organization. Connection made.

Timothy L. Hawthorne is an associate professor of GIS at the University of Central Florida and founding director of Citizen Science and GeoBus™. He and his team work to connect science and society through maps, apps and drones. You can learn more about the team’s work at www.citizensciencegis.org.


Life After College

By Kasey Fox

Ensuring students are prepared for life after college is no easy task. It is not a line you check off on a to-do list or a topic you revisit once a year; the stakes are too high.

The right approach should be for colleges to make readying students for the workforce part of a mission statement so deeply embedded within every nook and cranny of an institution that it drives and influences every decision made and serves as an orbital centerpiece for all policy and procedure.

Despite the expectation that students graduate from college and enter the job market equipped with a certain level of skill sets and knowledge, many find it difficult to apply the knowledge learned in the classroom to real life. In a country with some of the most innovative technology and brilliant human minds, surely there are solutions within reach to help better prepare students for the workforce.

Increasing student support means to reach them through multiple attempts, on various levels, through diversified channels, while continuously revisiting what that mission statement is and evaluating its relevancy to educational objectives. All too often, colleges are so focused on enrollment, recruiting strategies or producing high retention and graduation rates that they lose sight of the underlying objective -- supporting students. Instead, they could redirect some of those efforts to supporting faculty members in finding more creative approaches for designing coursework and lesson plans.

Most professors have professional experience outside the classroom within their discipline, and many are active in those roles in addition to teaching. Why, then, is there a gap between the real-world applications of a class and what is taught in the classroom? It’s far more useful to the student to get insights into future job and career opportunities.

Reading from a textbook simply does not provide students with valuable contextualized learning experiences. The use of knowledge needs to be the priority, not the possession of knowledge.

Students often have an expectation to be entertained by the instructor in the classroom. It might sound like an outlandish concept, but what if instead of ignoring it, this desire for entertainment was embraced? This would mean supporting students by meeting them where they are and by devising alternative teaching methods such as storytelling, field trips, guest speakers -- anything students can attach meaning to as they inch closer and closer to that life after college phase.

Feedback plays such a vital role in students' overall growth and development. Students want more thorough feedback on assignments and graded materials. How are their writing skills going to improve if no one outside an English class is giving them feedback on grammar and word choice? If the goal of the assignment is simply to reach a certain word count, where is the applicability to a real job?

Instructors are accountable for incorporating learning about what happens in the job market into their courses, and universities are accountable for providing them with the support they need to do so. I taught swimming lessons and coached competitively for many years. If a student was having difficulty grasping a certain stroke concept, it was not because they didn’t try hard enough or weren’t smart enough. It was because I failed. Somewhere along the line I had failed to teach that student in a way they were able to understand.

One approach worth investigating would be to simply ask students to jot down the types of activities they think someone in that profession performs on a day-to-day basis. Compare those responses against actual duties and fill in the gaps from there. Best practices can change so quickly within any given industry. And it’s important for students to study the most relevant and current information.

Career centers could provide better services that extend beyond the basics of career readiness. Perhaps they could break down what they offer by category, where career center staff members handle specific focus areas instead of one person managing all program majors.

Alumni also are an underused resource. Creating mentorship programs between students and alumni would help students feel more connected to the university and provide them with a wider support network. Alumni also would benefit from being able to give back and help guide another student to success on a path they’ve already traveled.

The bottom line is that there needs to be greater focus on supporting students in life after college -- a mission statement pursued with the same tenacity college leaders and professors encourage their students to bring to their pursuit of a degree.

Kasey Fox is a senior at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis.


In a Virtual World, We Can’t Afford to Wait for the Class of 2021 to Wander Into Career Services
By Christine Cruzvergara

The Class of 2021 is growing worried about their job prospects -- and rightfully so. In the midst of the global pandemic, about one-quarter of undergraduates seeking bachelor’s degrees say they have had a job or internship offer canceled. According to a recent survey of 980 students, less than 40 percent of students feel confident they’ll find a job or internship by summer 2021.

Career goals have long been a primary reason students go to college, yet few institutions have positioned career education as a core student experience. About 40 percent of students never visit a college career center, with students from marginalized and low-income backgrounds being especially unlikely to use the services. In this moment of crisis, it is essential we bring these services directly to students and stop hoping they will wander through the career center’s door on their own.

Here are five ways we can elevate career education on college campuses.

Integrate Career Services Into the Academic Mission

About half of career centers report to student affairs when academic affairs would be a far more apt home for their services. At many institutions, academics are the one true, common requirement of every student. Integrating career education more fully into the academic experience can ensure no students -- particularly underrepresented students -- fall through the cracks. Career education should be embedded in every step of a student’s academic journey, with career competencies and experiential learning being directly linked to course syllabi and pedagogical practices.

Fortunately, this is a growing trend among institutions, with about a quarter of career centers now reporting to academic affairs. Drew University’s Launch, Carthage College’s Aspire Program and Georgia State University’s College to Career QEP efforts are all strong examples of bold and systemic integration of career education into the academic experience.

Use Technology to Scale Services

Rethinking career services may seem like a daunting goal, especially when, according to a recent survey of career services leaders, half of career centers have had their budgets cut during the pandemic. Technology can expand the reach of career services so institutions can smartly use their limited resources to personalize services for the students who need it most. Requiring all students to activate and complete an online career profile as part of course enrollment, for example, can guarantee that every student is automatically exposed to career resources.

For many students, this one act will provide them with enough of a nudge to engage more fully in their career education, freeing up time and energy for staff to focus on students who require greater outreach and intervention. This creates a system that is designed for scale and where one-on-one services are ancillary, enabling a sort of office-hours structure reserved for students who lack networks of privilege and might need the most help.

Tap Alumni and Community

Research from Gallup and the Strada Education Network has found that having “a mentor who encourages a student’s goals and dreams” ranks among the most important factors in determining if a college graduate finds success in work and in life. Unfortunately, few students report having a mentor. Institutions should activate organic connections between students and alumni who can provide guidance and encouragement. Johns Hopkins University, for example, has pivoted from one-on-one career services appointments to focus more heavily on alumni mentoring and peer-to-peer learning models. This allows the university to redirect professional staff toward focusing more directly on academic integration while providing students access to mentors with real-world experience.

Embrace Virtual Experiences

As the pandemic continues to complicate face-to-face interactions between students and potential employers, digital experiences are especially vital. Eight in 10 students now tell us they have only met with employers virtually this year. This shift has helped reveal just how valuable virtual experiences can be -- and the importance of not treating them as second-class versions of face-to-face interactions.

We have seen how a well-planned virtual meeting between a student and an employer can be even more meaningful than a brief walk-up (or walk-by) at a physical career fair. We have seen how these interactions generate greater data and insights into how many students are actually connecting with employers. And we have seen how they can expand access, allowing busy students the flexibility they need to engage with these opportunities. Institutions can embrace and optimize virtual experiences, even beyond the pandemic.

Help Employer Mind-Sets Evolve

Higher education is only half the equation. Employers, too, must reimagine how they identify and hire workers. They should eschew traditional recruiting methods like focusing only on small sets of core schools and setting arbitrary GPA requirements, and they should use digital strategies to dive deeper into more diverse talent pipelines. Widening recruitment windows, using more inclusive language in job descriptions and being more transparent about compensation all go a long way in diversifying applicant pools. Institutions can leverage the relationships they have built with employers to encourage this shift, opening their eyes to the talent all around them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated and reinforced the need for change. Many of these suggestions do not require extensive resources, but they will require systemic coordination across the institution and real commitment from senior leaders. It’s time to align career education as a core experience for every student at every institution.

Christine Cruzvergara is vice president of higher education and student success at Handshake and the former associate provost and executive director of career education for Wellesley College.

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Strengthening Equity in Career and Technical Education

An Urban Institute-led partnership will work to support community and technical colleges with the transition to online learning. The project includes a focus on closing completion gaps, particularly for Black and Latino students in online, credit-bearing bearing career and technical education programs.

The ECMC foundation is contributing $2.5 million to the effort, which will include the National Council for Workforce Education, the Instructional Technology Council and others in a coalition that will support 15 community and technical colleges.

“CTE programs play an important role in preparing students for good jobs. Even prior to the pandemic, there was evidence of equity gaps for students of color,” Shayne Spaulding, a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, said in a statement. “As so many programs have been forced online, this exciting new collaboration is in a unique position to support colleges in making their programs more inclusive and accessible, ultimately leading to higher success for students.”

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