Freshman Survey: This Year, Even More Focused on Jobs

Today’s freshmen are focused on the future. They are certain they’ll finish their degrees in four years, despite evidence to the contrary; they want to land good jobs after graduation; and they increasingly aspire to be well-off.

Those are among the many findings of the 2012 Freshman Survey, published on Thursday by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, part of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. The annual survey delves into nearly every aspect of first-year students’ lives: study habits, religious beliefs, family income, career goals, even exercise habits. This year’s survey was administered last fall to 192,912 first-time, full-time students at 283 four-year colleges and universities.

At a time of public debate over the value of college, the findings reveal heightened expectations that a degree will provide economic security. In 1976 about two-thirds of freshmen said the ability to get a better job was a very important reason to go to college; in 2012, an all-time high of 88 percent said so.

Students also want to earn a good living: This year nearly three in four—the highest proportion on record—said the ability to make more money was a very important reason to go to college.

The tight economy appears to have affected students’ values as well as their choice of college, says John H. Pryor, director of the research program. As in the past, a majority of students still said they went to college to get an education and gain an appreciation of ideas. It’s just that now, more of them put an even greater value on job-related reasons. (Read more.)

Via Libby Sander, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

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Preparing America For Middle-Skill Work

Anthony Carnevale, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, shares his views on the importance of middle-skill jobs to the U.S. economy, and the role community colleges play in putting students to work.

Q: Why are middle-skill jobs so important to growing the U.S. economy?

A: Almost a third—17 million out of 55 million—new job openings between 2010 and 2020 are going to require middle skills, as baby boomers retire and new jobs are created.

Middle-skill jobs are also important because they often pay middle-class wages. For example, 62 percent of middle-skill jobs pay $35,000 or more per year and 14 percent pay $75,000 or more. What’s even more striking is that middle-skill jobs can pay more than jobs for workers with bachelor’s degrees. For instance, 31 percent of entry-level associate-degree jobs and 27 percent of jobs requiring some form of licensure or certification pay more than entry-level BA positions.

Q: What makes community colleges the ideal institutions to train middle-skill workers?

A: Community colleges are ideally situated to provide both practical career and technical preparation as well as general learning. The mix of general academic learning and workforce preparation that is the unique signature of the nation’s community colleges can lead to both further education and learning on the job. Moreover, the community colleges’ mix of general competencies and workforce development allows students to live more fully in their time by becoming more active citizens and successful workers.

The inescapable reality is that ours is a society based on work. Those who are not equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to get, and keep, good jobs are denied the genuine social inclusion that is the real test of full citizenship. Those denied the education required for good jobs tend to drop out of the mainstream culture, polity and economy. It is crucial that community colleges retain their workforce mission. If community college educators cannot fulfill their economic mission to help youths and adults become successful workers, they also will fail in their cultural and political missions to create good neighbors, good citizens and self-possessed individuals who can live fully in their time.

Community colleges have for decades been doing what middle-skill workers need now: retraining the long-term unemployed, matching new graduates’ skill sets to job opportunities through internships and mentoring, serving regional geographic localities and training-up nontraditional students. These things form the backbone of the community college mandate.

The community colleges’ dual educational and workforce development missions provide institutes with a lot of room to grow, as well as an opportunity to flex their muscles as they already stand head and shoulders above the rest in the movement toward truly comprehensive postsecondary institutions. (Read more.)

Via Times Staff, Community College Times.

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What Does The “Skills Gap” Mean For Educators?

Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy and author of the ‘Top Performers’ blog on Education Week, recently wrote a post in response to a 60 Minutes segment called, “Three million jobs in U.S., but who’s qualified?” It reminded me of a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Achieve that provides specific information on the future of the U.S. workforce.

SHRM and Achieve surveyed more than 4,600 HR professionals this past spring from nine industries, including government; construction, mining, oil, and gas; healthcare; high tech; nonprofessional services; professional services; finance; and manufacturing. The findings were published in an October report, “The Future of the U.S. Workforce: A Survey of Hiring Practices across Industries.”

The report explains that even with today’s high unemployment numbers, employers are having a difficult time finding skilled and qualified workers for more than 3 million open jobs. SHRM and Achieve note, “There is much speculation about why this may be the case, but no matter the reason, the fact is employers are searching for employees with more training and skills than ever before–a trend that human resource (HR) professionals expect will continue in the future. This trend makes it incumbent on the United States to ensure that future generations have the academic and technical foundation needed to succeed in tomorrow’s economy and to mind that skills gap.”

The report’s major findings include: (Read more.)

Via Emily Douglas, Education Week.

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Report on High Schools: Dramatic Increase in Distance Education, Decrease in Student Employment

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released last week its annual Condition of Education report that examines trends in education. This year’s report focuses on the transformation of high schools in the United States over the last 20 years, and includes several pertinent points for Career Technical Education (CTE).

  • High School Enrollment: Since 1990, the number of enrolled high schools students has risen slowly to 14.9 million, and the report projects that this number will increase by 4 percent over the next decade.
  • Distance Education: Enrollments in distance education have rapidly increased over the last five years. Today, more than half of public school districts have high school students who are enrolled in distance education for a total of more than 1 million students – up from about 200,000 only 5 years ago.
  • Student Employment: Only one in six high school students today are employed, compared to one in three in 1990.
  • STEM: More students are taking courses in science and mathematics. Sixteen percent of 2009 high school graduates took calculus, and 11 percent took statistics. In 1990, only seven percent took calculus courses and one percent took statistics. In 2009, 70 percent of students took chemistry and 36 percent took physics, compared to 49 percent and 21 percent respectively.
  • High School Graduation Rates: Over the last two decades, high school graduation rates have improved slightly and dropout rates have declined. In 1991, 73.7 percent of freshman students graduated in 4 years with a high school diploma. By 2009, the high school graduation rate increased to 75.5 percent. In that time, the percentage of students who dropped out of high school declined from 12 percent to 7 percent.
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: Between 2000 and 2010, undergraduate enrollment increased from 13.2 million to 18.1 million students, with enrollment in 2021 projected to be 20.6 million students.

The entire Condition of Education 2012 report is available on the NCES Web site. A webinar that accompanied the release of the report can be accessed here.

Via Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst, CTE Blog.

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Where the Jobs Are, the Training May Not Be

As state funding has dwindled, public colleges have raised tuition and are now resorting to even more desperate measures — cutting training for jobs the economy needs most.

Technical, engineering and health care expertise are among the few skills in huge demand even in today’s lackluster job market. They are also, unfortunately, some of the most expensive subjects to teach. As a result, state colleges in NebraskaNevada,South DakotaColoradoMichigan, Florida and Texas have eliminated entire engineering and computer science departments.

At one community college in North Carolina — a state with a severe nursing shortage — nursing program applicants so outnumber available slots that there is a waiting list just to get on the waiting list.

This squeeze is one result of the states’ 25-year withdrawal from higher education. During and immediately after the last few recessions, states slashed financing for colleges. Then when the economy recovered, most states never fully restored the money that had been cut. The recent recession has amplified the problem.

“There has been a shift from the belief that we as a nation benefit from higher education, to a belief that it’s the people receiving the education who primarily benefit and so they should foot the bill,” said Ronald G. Ehrenberg, the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute and a trustee of the State University of New York system.

Even large tuition increases have not fully offset state cuts, since many state legislatures cap how much colleges can charge for each course. So classes get bigger, tenured faculty members are replaced with adjuncts and technical courses are sacrificed.

State appropriations for colleges fell by 7.6 percent in 2011-12, the largest annual decline in at least five decades, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. In one extreme example, Arizona has slashed its college budget by 31 percent since the recession began in 2007.

It is this cumulative public divestment — and not extravagances like climbing walls or recreational centers advertised on a few elite campuses — that is primarily responsible for skyrocketing tuitions at state institutions, which enroll three out of every four college students.

Even large tuition increases have not fully offset state cuts, since many state legislatures cap how much colleges can charge for each course. So classes get bigger, tenured faculty members are replaced with adjuncts and technical courses are sacrificed.

State appropriations for colleges fell by 7.6 percent in 2011-12, the largest annual decline in at least five decades, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. In one extreme example, Arizona has slashed its college budget by 31 percent since the recession began in 2007.

It is this cumulative public divestment — and not extravagances like climbing walls or recreational centers advertised on a few elite campuses — that is primarily responsible for skyrocketing tuitions at state institutions, which enroll three out of every four college students. <Read more.>

Via Catherine Rampell, New York Times.

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