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Americans don't think college is preparing students for work
A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans aren't entirely satisfied with how college is preparing students for the future. - photo by JJ Feinauer
Only 13 percent of Americans feel confident that colleges are doing an effective job of preparing students for the future, according to a Gallup poll released April 24.

"This is effectively a 'no confidence' vote in college graduates' work readiness," Gallup's Brandon Busteed wrote when the poll when released. "And if we don't work to fix it, there will be catastrophic effects for the American education system and economy."

According to Gallup, those who have college degrees are less likely to be confident in how universities are preparing students than those who do not. Only 6 percent of those with college degrees strongly believe graduates are "well-prepared for success in the workforce." When it comes to those without college degrees, the percentage rests at 18 percent.

According to Busteed, Americans see college as the means to a good job, and the fact that many Americans aren't satisfied with how their college prepared them to enter the workforce could have devastating effects on the future of higher education.

"If we don't have confidence that college graduates are prepared for the outcome (e.g., a good job) of a degree we value most, a lot of things start to unravel," Busteed wrote in his explanation of the poll (which was also published by Quartz).

The danger, Busteed argues, is that "when we need a relevant and effective higher education system more than ever, it appears to be breaking down on the measure that matters most."

According to a report from last year by Junior Achievement, an organization that bills itself as "the world's largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness," young Americans are growing up in "a knowledge society" and preparedness programs need to adapt to these developments in order to combat this lack of confidence.

"They understand the power of using information and knowledge to potentially change the world around them and to better their own lives at the same time," the authors of the report said. Junior Achievement believes that the future of work readiness is in learning how to empower students to play to the generational strengths they have, and not feel tied down to old models.

As the Gallup poll shows, American attitudes toward the effectiveness of college have soured. When Gallup conducted the same poll in 2012, 19 percent responded that they felt confidence in higher education's ability to prepare students. That's a drop of 5 percentage points in three years.

But despite the loss of confidence, there are those who argue college is more important now than ever. The rapidly changing economy which is likely the cause of many of the feelings that college isn't doing enough to prepare students for their careers rewards a college degree more now than it did even 20 years ago.

"Non-college-educated workers are substantially more likely to work in lower-paying service occupations than in the recent past," a recent report by The Hamilton Project concluded, which is probably why Busteed worries that a lack of faith in college might lead to different ways of entering the workforce... ways that ultimately prove less lucrative.
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