Has Higher Education Become Just Another Big Business, Graduating Student In Fields Where There is No Hope For Employment? How Do We Address This Challenge?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL April 23, 2015 

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Higher education has become just another big business as more and more colleges and universities are graduating students with little to no hope of future employment, and the causes are many.

Most high school graduates and others pursuing higher education are indoctrinated by parents, teachers, counselors and friends with the idea that they must attend college in order to succeed in the social, work, and business world.  The prompting and encouragement are based on preconceived ideas that a college education leads to a better life, which includes all kinds of privileges, advantages, perks and higher earnings.  Students are manipulated by the hyped promotion of degree programs that colleges and universities heap on their heads along with the simplistic and valueless classes that go along with the programs, all of which cost thousands of dollars.  The skyrocketing tuition costs, expenses and debt that go along with a college education are given little consideration with recruitment efforts through both regular and online colleges and universities.    Institutions of higher learning prey on the college privilege factor and lure immature and short-sighted students into expensive degree programs that generate diminished productivity rather than future success.  In addition, the stellar degree field program choices are ripe with students waiting to graduate and fill limited jobs.  The number of graduates in such programs simply cannot be accommodated.

With making money being the name of the game with a majority of colleges and universities today, quality education and real career and job preparation are in jeopardy, and the current crop of programs offered have seriously plummeted in their worth because of the emphasis on a college education as a pathway to all around success coupled with a business industry (diploma mill) standard that generates income for the institution rather than real success of the student.   An emphasis on the true value of knowledge acquisition and learner usability has gone by the wayside, and a money making model has replaced real education and success for students.  This business aspect all comes back to bite students who figure out very quickly that there are entirely too many college graduates and not enough jobs in their chosen field.  The financial outlay has become a risk that gives no guarantee to a life-long career or significant job opportunity for most students, and students are left with questions of the worth of the whole process.

In order to address the challenge of the higher education business model and its underlying drive for every person to attend college, pay whopping fees, incur endless debt and face unemployment in their field, solutions need to be addressed to provide workable alternatives.  Those options should include college orientation programs that help potential college students prepare for the real world with emphasis on the fact that a college education does not guarantee a successful and lucrative career.  Orientation should also include overviews of degree program employability statistics, as well as total program costs and the type of grants, scholarships, internships and actual financing available that include workable and low interest repayment solutions.  In addition, degree path programs should include aptitude testing for alternative types of education in the vocational, technical and “jobs for tomorrow” realm to steer students away from degree programs that are out of reach and lack employment potential.  College and university students must be made aware of what is legitimately available and useable in the 21stCentury job market.

The money making aspect of the educational industry requires reform and regulation.  Emphasis must be shifted to the ever changing career and job path possibilities that are available to students at all educational levels, which encompasses the direction of appropriate placement of individuals in their areas of expertise with real employment possibilities, whether it be a doctorate in astrophysics,  vocational certification in motorcycle mechanics, or a bachelor’s in elementary education.   It is up to colleges and universities to redirect the money making aspect of education and to accept the hard fact that students must be prepared for the jobs of the future to be both employable and successful.

Asheville, NC Correspondent-Since the Great Recession began in 2009, state budgets for higher education have been slashed repeatedly. This is the excuse colleges will use for the meteoric rise in tuition rates. While no doubt true in part, this answer obscures a much more serious problem in higher education: administrative bloat. In 2000, the ratio of full-time faculty to administrative staff was around 6:1. Now, that ratio is 4:1. Expanding administrative positions comprised 28% of the new, non-replacement hiring in higher education. Under the heading of “student services,” new hires are charged with the two goals that govern the new mission of the academy: recruitment and retention. The highest paid employee of every state university is either a dean or an athletics director. There is little left of the educational mission of the university. Most teaching is handled by part-time, contingent faculty or graduate students who receive little institutional support, no teaching training, and no job security. Full time faculty members are evaluated based on their ability to attract grant funding; teaching is little more than an afterthought. New faculty orientation includes quite a bit of focus on student satisfaction, and very little discussion of educational standards. Higher education is a customer service industry, not an educational institution. To change this focus, consumers must stop focusing on a college “experience.” Everything peripheral to the educational mission of a college must be separated from it. This would include sacred cows like college athletics, Greek organizations, and social and extracurricular activities. These programs don’t need to disappear, but they do need to be less attached to the college as an institution. Separating “lifestyle” from college would eliminate dozens, perhaps hundreds, of superfluous administrators and drive the costs down. Such an effort would reduce the time commitment required to attend school, making it far more possible to work and go to school at the same time. This move would be incredibly unpopular, as it would immediately dry up many streams of revenue for universities. Yet, it is a necessary step to ensure the long-term viability of a system of higher education. We must reform institutions of higher learning, or risk their inevitable collapse.   Raleigh, NC Correspondent-It is a widely accepted premise all around the world that getting a college education is a crucial step in obtaining gainful employment and securing one’s future. Most of the times, it is undeniably true. Thus, according to the research provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2014 (last modified on April 2, 2015), the unemployment rate for people with graduate degrees such as PhD, Master’s, Professional, and Bachelor’s range from 1.9 to 3.5 percent; at the same time, people with Associate, some college (no degree), high school diploma, or less then high school diploma face an unemployment rate from 4.5 to 9 percent. Not only that, but the salary also varies widely. To illustrate, people with highest degrees earn on average $1101-1639 per week, while people with no college degree earn only around $488-792 per week.

However, in today’s economy even college education does not necessarily guarantee that a person will find a job easily. According to the research conducted by a global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company in 2012, there is a big discrepancy between what students, employers, and educators think about employment opportunities that college graduates have. For example, only 44 percent of students believe that postsecondary education improves their employment chances; just 42 percent of employers think that recent graduates have necessary set of skills needed to join workforce; at the same time, 72 percent of educational providers believe that their students are adequately prepared for entering job market. In fact, while national unemployment rate in the USA in March of 2015 was 5.5 percent, it was as much as 10.4 percent for people between the ages of 20 and 24, i.e. recent college graduates a (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Moreover, in addition to unemployment there is such a phenomenon as underemployment when young college graduates take on part-time jobs or jobs for which they are overqualified and get paid much less then they deserve.

What needs to be done to ensure that college graduates do indeed become gainfully employed, especially considering how expensive college education is nowadays? There are some solutions which might help. For example, it is necessary to establish better communication and collaboration between educators, students, and employers. As such, students need to be taught which skills they need to attract potential employers (such as teamwork, communication skills, problem solving, hands-on training, etc). Also, educators should steer their students toward majoring in fields where demand is projected to grow and which provide good wages such as engineering, computer science majors, economics, forensic science, accounting, business administration, etc. Moreover, educators should provide current information to their students regarding potential career opportunities and predicted trajectories. Potential employers can get involved with students while they are at school in a productive manner so that students will be equipped with necessary skills when they start their jobs. Consequently, employers can provide on-site training programs, offer their employees as faculty, advice on curricula, provide on-line courses, and such. On a larger scale, overall decrease of unemployment rate in the country should also positively affect recent college graduates in terms of job opportunities. As such, expansionary fiscal policies, creation of new jobs, earlier retirement threshold, and other initiatives might help.

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