- Students tend to see more value in their postsecondary education when it features coursework relevant to their jobs, according to a new survey of 340,000 people from Gallup and Strada Education Network.
- Most (57%) graduates of nondegree vocational and technical programs strongly agreed their education was worth the price. That's compared to 50% of respondents with graduate degrees, 48% with associate degrees and 40% with bachelor's degrees who say the same.
- Only about one-fourth of students who left college before completing a credential said it was worth the cost or strengthened their job candidacy.
The report's authors note that students don't just consider wages when determining the value of their credentials. They also want to see the connection between their education and careers. For instance, students viewed college majors as more valuable when they were tied to specific jobs.
More than half (52%) of graduates with degrees in health care fields strongly agreed their degrees were worth the cost and 72% said they made them more attractive to employers. Meanwhile, only about one-third of liberal arts majors said the same about the cost of their degrees and use in the job market.
Moreover, when the students surveyed saw their coursework as relevant to their careers, they valued their credentials more and had greater confidence in their ability to land jobs.
These results support previous findings from Strada-Gallup surveys. In a 2018 survey, respondents were 5.5 times more likely to agree that their education was worth what they paid if their courses were relevant to their work.
Yet there's a well-documented disconnect between the skills colleges teach and what the workplace demands. Only 26% of working adults that went to college agree their courses are relevant to their job and that they use them in their day-to-day lives, the 2018 survey found.
Employers have voiced similar concerns. In a pair of surveys last year, business executives and hiring managers said new graduates often lacked important job-place skills such as oral communication, critical thinking and self-motivation.
To fill in these gaps, colleges are borrowing tactics commonly used by workforce-oriented institutions to bring in-demand skills into liberal arts curriculum.
"We're at another turning point," Andrea Backman, chief employability officer at Strategic Education — which owns Capella University, a for-profit online college for adult learners — told Education Dive earlier this year. "Education is turning on its head to be skills-based."
Other institutions are turning toward partnerships. For instance, the Dominican University of California, a liberal arts college, is working with the Make School, a coding academy, to offer its students a computer science minor. In exchange, the university is helping the coding school become a fully accredited institution.
And colleges are strengthening their often-underused career services offices. To do so, some are requiring students to see career advisers more often and helping them explore more career paths, as well as gathering data on employment information for individual programs.