College students are frequently accused of living in a bubble, unaware of the realities they will face after graduation. However, a recent report suggests they deserve a bit more credit. According to a survey from Gallup and Strada Education Network, few college students feel confident that they actually have the skills and knowledge desired in the workplace.
Seventy-three percent of incoming freshman between 2000 and 2009 enrolled in college in order to get a better job after graduation. Despite these high hopes, only 34 percent of current students believe their schools are preparing them for success in the job market.
Colleges have moved away from true workforce training, in favor of a more “liberal education.” Administrators have even become smug about it. Ninety-six percent of administrators believe their institutions are effective at preparing students for the workforce.
Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of employers disagree with this self-assessment. Only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agreed that colleges are properly forming our nation’s workforce. The vast majority are settling for employees who are largely unqualified or simply leave positions unfilled altogether.
Colleges tend to be more focused on advancing social justice than career preparation, causing major gaps for employers and slowing GDP growth as a result. Most employers couldn’t care less about the diversity and inclusion programs offered by colleges. They want to recruit competent employees with the training and field experience necessary to do a job well. This is why employers look so favorably at internships. Work experience gives new hires a running start and tangible skills.
These disturbing statistics shed light on the brokenness of today’s college system. Students pay an average of $25,000 to $51,000 annually to attend college — for what exactly? A piece of paper that essentially says “I can memorize a bunch of irrelevant information and know how to BS my way through a term paper?”
As George Mason University professor Bryan Caplan argues, the financial value of a college degree lies in “signaling” rather than actual knowledge gained from coursework. Employers have no choice but to train prospective employees for the jobs they are trying to fill, and can only count on degrees as a measure of the candidate’s aptitude, diligence, and productivity.
As long as these institutions continue to move away from their original purpose of educating the future workforce, students will remain largely unprepared for the professional opportunities that present themselves after graduation.
Brendan Pringle (@BrendanPringle) is a freelance journalist in California. He is a National Journalism Center graduate and formerly served as a development officer for Young America's Foundation at the Reagan Ranch.