A recent report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers suggests that the graduating class of 2013 faces a bleak employment picture. According to the report, businesses only plan to hire 2.1 percent more college grads than they did from the class of 2012, down from an earlier expectation of a 13 percent increase. What is responsible for such a precipitous drop in expectations?
One reason could be that businesses don’t believe that new college graduates are properly trained to take on the rigors of the professional world. According to a report from recruiting firm Adecco, 66 percent of hiring managers believe recent college graduates to be unprepared to enter the workforce. If this comes as a surprise to anyone, it shouldn’t. As more students pass through the gates of academia in the pursuit of higher graduation rates, it should be expected that the quality of the education received will decrease.
An interesting point to note from the Adecco report, and by interesting I mean painfully sad, is that one of the major factors keeping recent graduates from getting as little as an interview is… spelling! Yes, so unprepared are our recent college graduates to tackle the professional world that they cannot even spell! Fifty-four percent of hiring managers surveyed said they regularly turn down applicants because of spelling mistakes.
The question now becomes, what are our students paying for, exactly? Tuition is going up and quality is clearly going down (seriously? spelling?), so why is it that year-after-year a student can expect to pay upwards of 5 percent more than the year before? If employers’ jaws were dropping at how advanced and well-suited recent graduates were for the jobs being offered, then perhaps tuition increases could be somewhat justified. That, as we are reminded with every new report, is unfortunately not the case.
What can be done? Smaller class sizes would allow professors to focus more attention on the individual students’ needs. It would transform the normal college classroom experience from the scattered nature of a shotgun blast to the focused precision of a hunting rifle. As it stands, with professors teaching 50, 100, or more students per class, the professor has two options: 1.) dumb down the instruction so that as many can grab a hold of as many young minds as possible, allowing his class to “earn” impressive marks, and helping to move closer to that higher graduation rate; or 2.) he can deliver the instruction in the way it was meant to be delivered – as a challenging academic exercise intended to stretch the minds and academic abilities of the students – this at the risk of increased failure rates, which would no doubt reflect poorly on his or her instruction quality.
Higher education in the U.S. is a chaotic assembly. It is worrisome when our graduates cannot even spell. Another report released this week shows that for those graduates who do somehow manage to land a job interview, the fight has only just begun. Common sense dictates that for an adult job, one should probably at the very least pretend to be an adult, yet in this recent report, we see that our graduates live in a state of arrested development. Interviewees have been taking calls and texts in the middle of the interview, bringing their parents along (and letting them call later to negotiate their salary… I did not know we could do that), and – wait for it – bringing their pets to the interview!
If this is a sign of things to come, I weep for the future. I weep, yet I feel no sympathy. Granted, not all of this can be blamed on those who bring their kittens to their job interviews, or to those who think that there is an “r” in the word “accountant.” A lot of this is because our economy has not recovered nearly as well as we are led to believe. Regardless, it is quite clear that there is something tragically amiss in the halls of academia if our recent graduates know neither how to spell nor how to undertake basic professional interactions. A product’s price is determined in part by what the customer is willing to pay, and if this is the product being put on the metaphorical shelf, then we are all well within our rights to demand something better.