Job Skills Expectations Unmet

In a recent survey, college presidents report their interest in giving students an education that leads to a job, but many admit their institutions are not yet very effective at doing so.

August 28, 2014

College presidents want to help graduates find jobs but believe their institutions are struggling to do so, according to a recent survey by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed.

Nearly nine in 10 presidents said an emphasis on “critical thinking” skills and personal development is very important throughout college in order for graduates to get jobs. But only about 40 percent of the presidents think their own institution is very effective at proving students with those skills and that kind of development.

Eight hundred and one presidents from all kinds of American higher education institutions filled out the online survey between May 15 and June 5, though the sample is not representative of the nation’s colleges.

The survey shows that the presidents are thinking about the skills their students need for the job market, but many feel their institutions fall short in that area.

In a similar vein, 78 percent of presidents said that providing internships so student can apply what they were learning to the real world is very important, yet only 38 percent said their institutions are good at doing this.

“This calls for a serious change,” said John Pryor, a senior researcher at Gallup who specializes in higher education.

Gallup has lately focused on how what happens in college affects graduates’ lives and careers.

Pryor said some of the things presidents hope to do but are not doing effectively could, indeed, help students find great jobs.

Presidents also reported the ability to increase budget lines. Most are using that money for faculty: 72 percent are raising staff salaries and 71 percent are raising faculty salaries.

Seventy-six percent are also putting new money into redesigning courses, 66 percent are spending more on faculty development, 81 percent are boosting student recruitment efforts and 58 percent are putting money into facilities maintenance.

Presidents are also thinking about blending what happens in the classroom with online homework and lectures – 87 percent said they are talking about and taking action to create such blended types of learning.

"We contrast that with the idea of MOOCs, where there was a lot of discussion going on, but not a lot of action," Pryor said, referring to the recent craze for massive open online courses as a possible replacement for traditional college. "We're really seeing that there is much more emphasis now on using part of the online experience to enhance what goes in the classroom, rather than to replace it."


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