December 16, 2016

College careers offices should rethink their services, advises new report

College careers offices should rethink their services, advises new report

Colleges and universities in the US are spending too much time concentrating on admissions and not enough on easing the school to work transition of students, according to a new report by Gallup, Purdue University, and the Lumina Foundation.  

The report, part of a bigger multi-year study examining how people with bachelor’s degrees in the US are faring, discovered that only about half of college graduates visited the careers office on their campus, and very few—just 17% of those who graduated between 2010 and 2016—found it very helpful.

Getting a job is a key reason 86% of college entrants choose to undertake post-secondary education. State and federal governments are also increasingly holding institutions accountable for producing graduates that are ready to enter the workforce, particularly in an era of increasing tuition fees and high levels of student debt. It is therefore important for colleges to improve how they are connecting with students and what they are offering regarding careers advisory services

The researchers found that those who had good experiences at their college’s career-services office were more likely to believe they were prepared for life after graduation. They were also more likely than those who did not visit to be employed full time (67% compared to 59%), and to find a job quickly. 

Of course, the students who visit their college careers offices might already be more motivated individuals and possess other characteristics that raise their chances of finding employment whether they visit the office or not, but service improvement is surely still important.

Sandra McNally has investigated the importance of careers advice provided before college. She notes that for interventions to improve knowledge about the costs and benefits of educational investments to be effective in the short term, “they must be carefully designed and targeted to groups for whom the demand for information is high and can be readily acted upon.” 

In his IZA World of Labor paper, Douglas Webber reminds us that “[e]ducation remains the most certain path to financial stability.” However, he stresses, “while this is likely true for most people, the benefits of a four-year degree may not outweigh the costs for everyone, especially in light of high tuition costs and different rates of return for different college degrees.” To enable more informed decision-making, he recommends “estimating the returns for as many options as possible and making that information as transparent as possible.” 

Related articles:
How important is career information and advice?, by Sandra McNally
Is the return to education the same for everybody?, by Douglas Webber