What Universities Must Provide to Draw Top StudentsSeptember 03, 2013 | By Wayne O'Neill
Attracting top students is vital for colleges and universities who strive to stand out amidst tremendously intense, growing competition. Top students are valuable in building the school’s reputation of excellence because when graduates successfully transition to the work world, the college/university gets “credited” with putting them in that position.
So why are institutions of higher learning struggling to attract top students? Check out these disturbing facts that we first revealed in our blog “College Pathway to Prosperity: Myth or Fact?”
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 48% of employed U.S. college grads are in jobs that require less than a four-year degree.
- To make matters worse, in 2011, 1.5 million, or 53.6% of college grads under age 25 were out of work or underemployed.
- Plus, a McKinsey report stated that a third of graduates do not feel that college prepared them well for the world of work.
- Of the 1.7 million grads who earn their bachelor’s degree this year from the top 100 colleges, 40% of graduates will not be able to find jobs in their chosen field but will instead work in retail, hospitality or other jobs that do not require a college degree.
From a parent’s perspective, all of these stats point to this:
Top universities/colleges do not do any better job preparing kids for the real world than the rest of the schools do. So why would we spend six figures sending them to a top school?
Can Parents See the Opportunity for their Kids?
The ray of hope comes from the fact that 77% of graduates of the top 100 four-year programs (based on the U.S. News and World Report rankings) who worked part-time, did internships or employee mentorships felt prepared for work.
So they’re more employable.
Even still, a growing number of the best and brightest students and their parents are no longer willing to take on the astronomical debt load without assurance that the money they spend on higher education will be a good investment for a proper education and improved position in the post-graduate job market. Education is still a gateway to opportunity, the foundation of a knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy, and a means to global economic leadership. However, creative students are becoming increasingly skeptical regarding the ROI of higher education. Pursuing these treasured students is important because they become innovative leaders. Their critical thinking skills help them relate what they learn in technical expertise to practical business solutions while collaborating and communicating effectively with others throughout the organization.
While trying to draw in top students, you may ask yourself these questions:
- Do you offer more to students than a good sports arena or a new football stadium?
- What percentage of your students graduate in four years or less?
- How do you prepare students for the post-graduate job market?
- What percentage of your students are hired full-time in desired positions after graduation?
- Who partners with your university to provide meaningful internships?
- What programs do you offer that demonstrate collaboration with businesses to achieve student goals?
- How well do your various departments collaborate with each other to help students accomplish the customized degree desired?
So here’s the Bottom Line…
As your college or university gears up to attract more top students, here are a few suggestions to consider:
- Provide internship opportunities that offer prospective students a competitive edge once they enter the job market. Today’s students desire programs designed with real-world skills that will position them for employment and career growth. Businesses are looking to hire applicants with the right technical skills as well as soft skills, such as listening, conflict management, leadership ability, and other personality characteristics necessary to succeed in the business environment. Students with valuable internship experiences require less on-the-job training and quickly become productive assets within organizations.
- Provide hands-on research opportunities. Often top students are interested in making a difference in the world by solving real-world problems. Help them form teams and conduct meaningful research to address specific issues. Create virtual labs to supplement this hands-on research. Virtual labs can provide skill sets and experience needed to successfully operate in today’s complex business environments and solve a wide range of societal, technical, and economic issues.
- Provide study abroad opportunities to gain a broader perspective of the global market and international opportunities. Through technology our world has become smaller and students want real-life cultural experiences that invite connections with people around the world.
- Establish mentorship programs. This millennial generation seeks to be mentored and expects to be guided through each step of their professional development.
- Establish interaction opportunities with top business thought leaders by tapping into the talents of your successful alumni. Students expect to have opportunities to connect directly with powerful and well-known leaders in their field of study. For example, if an alumni writes a book, bring the author into the university and give students an opportunity to interact with them.
- Develop hybrid/online learning opportunities. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are changing the game in learning opportunities. Online courses offered by a growing number of universities, including the University of Phoenix and the Minerva Project, are quickly becoming a trend. Why? The push for alternatives in learning stem from a need to resolve student issues. Online learning costs students less and allows students to pursue paychecks and real life experiences while personally tailoring class schedules. For another interesting higher education perspective from one who “owns” the deliverable from the top, check out Michael Crow’s recent interview with CNN/Money magazine. Michael Crow is the president of Arizona State University, America’s largest public university. Additional breakthroughs in distance/hybrid learning include: Florida’s Virtual Campus, Wisconsin’s open option and eCampus, Georgia’s ONmyLINE, and Kentucky’s Learn on demand.
Now is the time to refresh your strategy that draws top students to your college or university. To succeed, you will need to show students you can give them the proper education AND help them position for the post-graduate job market. And it CANNOT involve raising the tuition to bring more of the opportunities outlined above.