College Guide

Blog

June 14, 2012 3:26 PM Holding Colleges Accountable

By Danny Vinik

More and more, parents and students have been weighing the costs and benefits of college and deciding whether it is worth the price. For most, the value of college does not come from the four years that the students spend there, but from the careers and salaries they earn after they graduate. And here is where colleges have come up short.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeff Selingo looked into this issue:

Many colleges followed the same tired playbook year after year: a career office tucked away in a corner of the campus, employer fairs, visits from corporate recruiters, and then, six months or so after commencement, a survey of graduates, few of whom responded (yet that didn’t stop the colleges from publicizing amazingly high job-placement rates).

Students are looking for more than statistics from a career counselor who barely knows their name. They want specific, knowledgeable advice. They want connections. They want results (a well-paying job) and they want colleges to put every possible effort into delivering those results.

And with the skepticism over the value of college growing, colleges are finally starting to put that effort forward:

[Franklin & Marshall College] created the new position of associate vice president for student and postgraduate development, which is responsible for the traditional areas of career services and other postgraduate advising, but also for creating new programs in life skills (such as managing debt) and soft skills (such as conflict resolution) for both undergraduates and new alumni…
[Davidson] plans to create a one-year, postgraduate experience where students will work in nonprofit organizations, either closely with the leader or on a strategic project, in order to further develop their skill.
Late last month St. Olaf College unveiled what is perhaps the most comprehensive Web site created by a college that attempts to answer the return-on-investment question. Through surveys and scouring social media, St. Olaf published detailed employment and salary data for 92 percent of its Class of 2011.

And students are not the only ones intent on holding colleges accountable for their students’ postgraduate success:

Virginia is about to become the first state to release median salaries of the graduates of hundreds of academic programs across every public institution and some private colleges in the state.

Until recently, parents and kids alike have always deemed college a beneficial investment. But now they are asking for proof and colleges need to be prepared to give it to them.

Danny Vinik is an intern at the Washington Monthly.