As parents of college age students tighten up their budgets, colleges and universities are responding in some creative ways. One East Coast liberal arts college has taken on the slogan “Home of the Guaranteed Job” and gives free classes or student loan payments to any graduates who do not find work within their degree field within six months of graduation. Other institutions have reacted by eliminating courses of study with declining enrollment, such as philosophy, classical studies or French. Some universities now include classes on networking, resume writing and job interviewing skills as part of required coursework for graduation.
The downside, from the viewpoint of many colleges and universities, is that late-blooming students will find themselves about to graduate with a major in an area in which they no longer have interest. Students who specialize early in their college years miss out on the full process of self-discovery. When this process is short-changed, there is a propensity to become a “job-hopper” throughout one’s life. And this is the type of job candidate who is unlikely to be at the top of any hiring committee’s list. Although universities have always changed course offerings to meet the changes in society at large, the current unfavorable economic climate has accelerated this process.
Many universities are choosing to eliminate low-enrollment majors rather than reduce the operating budget across all majors. With less choice in majors being offered comes the increased possibility that college graduates as a group will be more homogeneous. This does not bode well for their “employability.” The majority of employers who participated in a recent survey on college specialization responded that there should be an emphasis on effective oral and written communication, critical thinking, analytical reasoning skills and innovation and creativity skills. These are just the types of skills that get less attention when an institution bends to meet the demands of families looking for immediate financial returns on college education expenses. Today companies are more demanding of employees than ever before, and these skills are highly rated by many companies, regardless of the type of industry.