Higher Education’s Return on Investment?
We often think of higher education as being the place that preps us for our future career. But is this the focus of colleges and universities? Are students finding work related to their degree right after graduation?
Nancy Hoffman, the vice president at Jobs for the Future, says that at many elite colleges, professors are generally preparing their students to be what they are, historians, literary critics, and biologists, just to name a few.
“I have a Ph.D. in comparative literature,” says Hoffman. “I don’t remember anyone ever talking to me about what I might do for work.”
Hoffman doesn’t think professors wish students ill, but she says that most professors believe their goal is to teach their discipline. What the students do with that knowledge afterward is for students to figure out.
For students lacking real-world connections to their desired career, this is a problem. We see over and over again many students are sold the notion, just get a college degree, take a loan if you need to and everything will be fine. And of course, it isn’t. Especially if you can’t get a well-paying job.
It’s part of the reason Hoffman recently co-authored Teaching Students About the World of Work – A Challenge to Postsecondary Educators.
The advantage of social capital
Hoffman argues that colleges, especially community colleges, should be focused on teaching students how social capital works and how students can build it.
Hoffman says that there’s a specific kind of social capital that is important in entering the labor market and that kind of social capital is very hard to come by in low-income communities.
“There’s research that shows that low-income communities have networks but those networks are quite closed. And you need to be able to access a network of higher status than your own.”
In Episode 155 of Class Dismissed, Hoffman offers guidance on how community colleges and universities can restructure to better prep students to gain employment. Spoiler alert, there’s a lot more to it than having a career services office on campus.
You can listen to the latest Episode of Class Dismissed on your favorite podcasting app or iTunes.