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The best career advice from this year’s graduation speeches

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This year's headline-grabbing commencement speeches have been high on thinly veiled critiques of the Trump administration and big on dire warnings about the state of American democracy.

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson cautioned graduates at Virginia Military Institute about the end of American democracy if Americans don't “confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders.” Michael Bloomberg talked at Rice University of the threat from “our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party and in pursuit of power.” And 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, raising a Russian ushanka hat as part of a Yale University tradition, said Sunday that “we're living through a full-fledged crisis in our democracy,” telling students “to stay vigilant, to neither close our eyes, nor numb our hearts or throw up our hands.”

But not all of this year's graduation speeches are quite so political or cautionary. A few — though not many — seemed to remember that they were speaking before a group of people who were about to embark upon life as adults who will have to navigate the politics of the workplace, the complexities of new relationships and the decisions of adult life. (Oprah Winfrey to USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism graduates: “Invest in a quality mattress. Your back will thank you later.")

Here, some of the best advice offered by this year's commencement speakers so far that graduates — or anyone — can apply to their work and careers:

Oprah Winfrey, chair and CEO of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism at the University of Southern California

Winfrey, whose past speeches have drawn speculation that she might be planning a run for president — a rumor she has squashed — got plenty of attention for her calls for graduates to vote in her speech at USC on May 11. But after offering a litany of practical wisdom (“Eat a good breakfast,” she said. “Pay your bills on time. Recycle.") she also added some clear advice for graduates' time in the workplace.

“The number one lesson I can offer you where your work is concerned,” said the media titan, “is this: Become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do, that your talent cannot be dismissed.”

She also countered the typical “do what you love” advice that fill so many graduation speeches with something else. “You need to know this: Your job is not always going to fulfill you,” she said. “There will be some days that you just might be bored. Other days you may not feel like going to work at all. Go anyway, and remember that your job is not who you are. It’s just what you are doing on the way to who you will become. With every remedial chore, every boss who takes credit for your ideas — that is going to happen — look for the lessons, because the lessons are always there.” (Read More...)

Who Is Studying Online (and Where)

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The number of college students enrolled in at least one online course -- and the proportion of all enrolled students who are studying online -- continued to rise at U.S. institutions in the 2016 academic year, newly released federal data show.

The statistics, part of a major release of provisional data on enrollments, employment and other topics from the Education Department's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, provide the most up-to-date information on enrollments in online and distance education.

The overarching story is a familiar one: even as overall enrollment in postsecondary institutions stays flat (unlike recent numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse, the federal data show enrollments staying roughly constant, not declining), online enrollments climb.

As a result, so, too, does the proportion of all students at institutions eligible to award federal financial aid who are taking at least one course at a distance, as seen in the table below.

The increased likelihood of being enrolled online is occurring at most levels and types of institutions in higher education.

Since 2014, the proportion of undergraduate students at Title IV-eligible institutions who are enrolled in at least one distance education course has risen from 27.1 percent to 30 percent in 2016, and the proportion of graduate students enrolled at least partially online has grown from 32.5 percent to 36.6 percent in 2016.

Community college students (30.9 percent) were more likely than undergraduates at four-year public institutions (29 percent) and four-year private colleges (25.6 percent) to be enrolled in at least one online course.

But more than two-thirds of the students taking at least one online course in 2016 were at public institutions, while roughly 18 percent were at private nonprofit colleges and 13 percent were at for-profit institutions. And the growth in the number of students taking at least one online course in 2016 was greater among public institutions than it was for private institutions, a change in the pattern of recent years. (Read More...)

More Frequent, Intensive Advising Cranks up Student Engagement

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When Georgia State University added 42 academic advisers, it cost the institution an additional $2 million each year. However, reported Tim Renick, vice president for enrollment management and student success, the investment paid for itself, "because the increased retention rate meant more revenue for the school." Graduation rates there grew by more than 20 percentage points in just over a decade, including among students of color; now Black and Hispanic students graduate at rates comparable to or higher than those of White students.

Georgia State's story features in a new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, as an example worth the attention of two-year schools. "If community colleges want to increase student engagement, one place to start is by examining the foundation of academic advising," said Evelyn Waiwaiole, executive director of the center.

To put data behind the impact of advising on retention and engagement, the center surveyed about 180,000 students at 297 colleges around the country. The survey was issued in paper form in the spring semester during class to students enrolled in randomly selected credit-bearing courses. (A parallel survey was given to 9,577 faculty at 86 colleges.) The final report, "Show Me the Way: The Power of Advising in Community Colleges," found that overall, students who get more time in advising with more in-depth discussions during their advising sessions are more engaged in community college.

Yet, the survey also found that the content of those advising sessions varies widely among students. While a majority of students (62 percent of first-termers and 78 percent of returning students) do meet with an adviser, most of those sessions are focused on figuring out what classes they need to take for their educational goals. While two-thirds (65 percent) also said advisers helped them create academic plans, just over half (53 percent) were also able to discuss their commitments outside of school. And most (65 percent) didn't discuss scheduling for a follow-up advising session. (Read More...)

Why we need to know more, not less, about what students get from college

By Mark Schneider of Hechinger Report

The federal government, in concert with the states and institutions, could do more to increase transparency and enhance market accountability in higher education.

More effectively reporting data that it already collects and collecting better data on cost, quality and value would provide a number of benefits.

Students could use the information to avoid investing in schools or programs that do not provide a positive return on investment and to discover options that they may have eliminated on the basis of incomplete or faulty information.

Researchers and policymakers could more readily judge where investments in federal aid are paying off and where reforms could improve efficiency and reduce waste. Private firms could use data to come up with rankings and ratings to reflect the unique preferences of different students.

Private lenders and funders could use labor-market outcome data to improve underwriting and extend credit on the basis of a student’s potential rather than the student’s past experience with credit products. 

Perhaps the most visible attempt to rewrite the federal role was the Obama administration’s failed attempt to build a Postsecondary Institutional Rating System (PIRS).  In 2013, the White House decided that the nation needed a rating system that would evaluate the approximately 7,000 post-secondary institutions that participate in federal student-aid programs. (Read More...)

Five Ways That Mayors Can Promote Better College and Workforce Results

Authored by Carol D’Amico, Executive Vice President, National Engagement and Philanthropy, USA Funds

 

The common perception is that the nation’s mayors don’t hold much sway over the higher education system or the quality of the workforce in their communities. I beg to differ with that perception, however.

I believe that city leaders have both strong motivation for improving the so-called talent pipeline through college and into the workplace, and the authority to spur meaningful change. Every mayor is concerned about the economic vitality of his or her community. Ensuring that both existing employers and potential new employers have access to the talent they need to run their businesses is critical to a community’s prosperity.

Likewise, in my experience, mayors are all about getting things done. For example, in the early ’90s, mayors got involved in the reform of K-12 education after they decided they no longer could tolerate very poor high school graduation rates. Their involvement made a huge difference.

Today, communities face another education challenge: Too few students who enroll in postsecondary programs complete them, and too many graduate with skills that don’t mesh with the needs of employers. The result is a high level of unemployment and underemployment among recent college graduates. Read More...

As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short

Berea High School in Greenville, S.C., graduates 80 percent of its students, but ACT scores indicate few are ready for college.  CreditSean Rayford for The New York Times

Berea High School in Greenville, S.C., graduates 80 percent of its students, but ACT scores indicate few are ready for college. CreditSean Rayford for The New York Times

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A sign in a classroom here at Berea High School, northwest of downtown in the largest urban district in the state, sends this powerful message: “Failure Is Not an Option. You Will Pass. You Will Learn. You Will Succeed.”

By one measure, Berea, with more than 1,000 pupils, is helping more students succeed than ever: The graduation rate, below 65 percent just four years ago, has jumped to more than 80 percent.

But that does not necessarily mean that all of Berea’s graduates, many of whom come from poor families, are ready for college — or even for the working world. According to college entrance exams administered to every 11th grader in the state last spring, only one in 10 Berea students were ready for college-level work in reading, and about one in 14 were ready for entry-level college math. And on a separate test of skills needed to succeed in most jobs, little more than half of the students demonstrated that they could handle the math they would need. Read More...

Increasing education: What it will and will not do...

Authored by Brad Hershbein, Melissa S. Kearney of Brookings Institution and Lawrence H.Summers of Harvard University

Mainstream labor economists as well as several public commentators have argued that trends in the economy over recent decades—including technological developments, globalization, and trade, among others—have weakened the relative earnings power of those with lower levels of skills, especially those without a college degree. In recent decades, the earnings of those with a college degree or more have risen steadily, while the wages of those with lower levels of education have stagnated or fallen. Furthermore, lifetime earnings of workers with a college degree are nearly twice as high as those without one, a point made by a number of previous Hamilton Project analyses, including one fromthis past year.[1]

This line of reasoning leads to the view that to further the goal of widespread economic prosperity, it will be imperative to increase the skill level of many in the population, a position that a subset of us (Hershbein and Kearney) took in a recent Hamilton Project framing paper. Other commentators have objected that education is not the answer to the nation’s inequality challenge. Following up on remarks made at a recent Hamilton Project event, one of us (Summers) noted in a Washington Post interview that “to suggest that improving education is the solution to inequality is, I think, an evasion.” In this essay we clarify the different elements of the public debate and note explicitly that these positions are not necessarily at odds. Read More... 

Law School Graduates Struggle in Job Market

Jonathan Wang graduated from Columbia Law School in 2010; he is a test-prep tutor now. CreditJames Estrin/The New York Times

Jonathan Wang graduated from Columbia Law School in 2010; he is a test-prep tutor now.CreditJames Estrin/The New York Times

Jonathan Wang has not practiced law since he graduated from Columbia Law School in 2010, but he did not plan it that way.

When he entered law school, the economy was flourishing, and he had every reason to think that with a prestigious degree he was headed for a secure well-paying career. He convinced his parents, who work in Silicon Valley, that he had a plan. “I would spend three years at school in New York, then work for a big law firm and make $160,000 a year,” said Mr. Wang, 29. “And someday, I would become a partner and live the good life.”

Mr. Wang, who works in Manhattan as a tutor for the law school admissions exam, is living a life far different from the one he envisioned. And he is not alone. About 20 percent of law graduates from 2010 are working at jobs that do not require a law license, according to a new study, and only 40 percent are working in law firms, compared with 60 percent from the class a decade earlier. To pay the bills, the 2010 graduates have taken on a variety of jobs, some that do not require admission to the bar; others have struck out on their own with solo practices. Most of the graduates have substantial student debt.

Even as law school enrollment was peaking in 2010 — reaching 52,488, according to American Bar Association figures — those graduating were not receiving job offers from firms where they were interning. And offers to some students were rescinded. Read More...

Is college worth it? Is this even the right question?

Are graduates getting value for their money?  Merrimack College/Flickr ,  CC BY-NC-ND

Are graduates getting value for their money? Merrimack College/FlickrCC BY-NC-ND

Authored by Josipa Roksa, Associate Professor of Sociology and Education, University of Virginia, and Richard Arum, Professor of Sociology, New York University

Is a college degree worth it? Yes, on average, college graduates fare much better in the job market than high school graduates.

This question, however, ignores a more important set of issues: Are graduates getting value for their money? And are colleges preparing students responsibly for smooth transitions into adulthood?

There is no doubt, those with college degrees earn substantially higher wages. And even though the recent recession was difficult for everyone, the Current Population Survey indicates that in 2011, twice as many young adults without college degrees were unemployed as young college graduates.

But our research, published in a recent book, Aspiring Adults Adrift, shows that colleges are too often failing to impart students with critical thinking, problem solving and written communication skills that are important to their success in the labor market.

Financial challenges after a college degree

We followed close to 1,000 graduates from the class of 2009 across the United States as they transitioned from a range of four-year institutions into their lives after college. Two years after completing college, only approximately half of the college graduates not pursuing full-time graduate studies were employed full-time and earning over US $30,000. Read More...

Rethinking the Role of College Career Centers for Humanities Graduates

Authored by Dr. Brian C. Mitchell Director of the Edvance Foundation

Numerous studies indicate that the skills produced by a quality liberal arts education correspond precisely to what employers seek beyond technical training. The ability to articulate, write, apply quantitative methods, use technology, and work in a collaborative setting will continue to shape the parameters of the skill set needed in the 21st century.

So, why do liberal arts graduates, especially humanities majors, suffer from inaccurate and inconsistent portrayals of their attractiveness to employers?

There are likely several reasons behind this inconsistency.

Liberal arts graduates, especially in the humanities, do not as easily transition into first jobs as students also trained, for example, in STEM disciplines, teaching, nursing or business. For many of these humanities students, the move to employment typically includes additional education at the graduate or professional level. Some of them are uncertain about career paths while others received limited guidance as their graduation day approaches. Read More...