The importance of a college degree to career success seems to be decreasing. Employers are increasingly relying on skills-based hiring, and the job market is so hot right now that many employers have dropped the bachelor’s degree as an employment requirement. With the amount of student loan debt incurred and with no guarantee of getting a job that will easily pay off that debt, many learners are wondering if the four-year degree path is worth the investment. Is higher education still the best road to career success? For institutions looking to stay viable, it needs to be.
Many institutions know this and are responding to student concerns. They’re offering innovative programs and effective tools that cut degree costs, educate students on financial literacy, and increase their odds of finding a well-paying job. Below, we examine some of the ways institutions are adapting policies and practices to help invest in the career and financial success of their students.
Partnering With Businesses to Combine Education With Industry Training
Many forward-looking schools are partnering with businesses because it is an effective way to help students gain employment pre- and post-graduation. Through these business partnerships, institutions can offer students a clear path to a career alongside a more traditional education.
As jobs become more skills-based, some institutions are even creating programs that give academic credit for professional training. For example, at the University of Purdue, students can gain credits for professional training and life experience.
In addition to traditional degrees, some schools are offering skills-based courses and micro-credentials. The State University of New York (SUNY), for instance, has an entire program dedicated to micro-credentialed courses.
Making It Easy for Students to Transfer Credits
Transferring schools is common. In fact, over one-third of students transfer colleges at some point before earning their degree. This is especially true of students transferring from a community college to a larger four-year institution.
Unfortunately, transferring credits isn’t always easy. A school’s reputation depends not just on the quality of courses they offer but the quality of students they graduate. Many institutions are strict about what types of credits they accept. Students who’ve already spent thousands of dollars earning course credits can often find themselves at a different university needing to take the same course over again. This places them even further in debt and makes it harder for them to achieve financial success after graduation.
But the department of higher education is placing increasing emphasis on a college’s ability to help its students’ upward mobility. Institutions are realizing that their students’ financial success can be tied to theirs. Reducing the cost of a student’s education is in the institution’s best interest, and many are becoming more lenient in accepting previous coursework and accepting transfer credits.
Teaching Students Financial Literacy Skills
Many students who enter college do so without understanding how to manage the financial impact of that decision. In fact, one out of every five U.S. students lacks basic skills in financial literacy. They don’t possess the financial competencies to understand how their education can impact their choice of profession or their ability to pay their bills.
Without financial literacy, students can end up financially underwater with an incomplete degree and, most importantly, no job. Knowing this, some institutions are implementing financial literacy programs and offering them across campus. Programs like the Bull2Bull program at the University of Southern Florida or Stanford University’s Mind over Money program are giving students the tools they need to manage their debt and budget for their future. Additionally, by understanding the big fiscal picture of higher education, these students can better manage their academic journey and their path to future employment.
Removing the Roadblocks to Financial Success
The obstacles to a college degree are stacking up. The cost, time, and effort it takes to earn a degree are turning off many students. Institutions that are concerned about their own financial future should heavily consider ways they can invest in their students’ financial futures.
Many colleges and universities are already doing what they can: Internship programs, co-ops, job fairs—these have been tools in their arsenals for a long time. But to address current student concerns—debt, skills-learning, financial education—institutions that haven’t already instituted new programs need to start thinking about what they can do to promote student financial success before and after graduation.
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