Is Higher Education Doing the Job to Prepare Grads for the Workforce?



A disturbing headline caught my eye — “US higher education failing to focus on basic skills.” The 2011 Washington Post column by Pulitzer Prize-winning Kathleen Parker asserts that colleges and universities are falling down on their job – to properly educate our students.

Ostensibly, she believes the nation collectively has an incorrect focus. And I had been pleased that At Long Last, More Focus on Critical Thinking in Business Schools.

But I tend to agree with her after previously writing this column, Study: Unemployment Stems Partly from Deficient Worker Skills, Education.

“Missing from the conversation is the quality of what’s being taught,” she writes. “Meanwhile, we are mistakenly wed to the notion that more people going to college means more people will find jobs.”

Ms. Parker acknowledges the economy is weak in providing jobs for graduates, but she advises: “Fundamentally, students aren’t learning what they need to compete for the jobs that do exist.”

In essence, she cites a report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities that quotes statistics that most employers know:

  • 87 percent of companies believe colleges have to improve
  • 63 percent of grads lack sufficient skills
  • According to another survey, more than 25 percent of grads are inadequate in basic writing skills

Ms. Parker cites a book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” that indicts the lack of progress in critical thinking, and that more than a third of students don’t sufficiently improve in learning.

“Most universities don’t require the courses considered core educational subjects — math, science, foreign languages at the intermediate level, U.S government or history, composition, literature and economics,” she writes.

She cites data from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni covering more than 1,000 educational institutions:

  • 5 percent require economics
  • 29 percent require two or fewer subjects
  • Less than 20 percent require U.S. government or history

Critics of the data maintain that it’s incorrect – that it’s too “conservative.”

As for the students’ perspective, she writes: “A recent Roper Organization study found that nearly half of recent graduates don’t think they got their money’s worth.”

My thought: Oh my! More evidence that America is not prepared for the future.

From the Coach’s Corner, well, here’s a partial solution: 25 Best Practices for Better Business Writing.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”

-Albert Einstein

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.