More provosts are focusing on improving career preparation at their colleges, according to a recent survey by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup.
Academic leaders also weighed in on other issues that they consider to be top-of-mind this academic year, including diversity, tenure, trigger warnings, and more.
Though views and priorities varied across the board, one concern was nearly unanimous: 83% of survey respondents said their colleges would focus more this year on providing degrees that help their graduates get "good jobs."
To arrive at these results, Gallup and Inside Higher Ed sent email invitations to 2,721 chief academic officers and provosts, and received 654 responses. The responses came from a fairly even blend of public and private institutions in the United States—332 public and 303 private.
Of the career preparation attitudes, public and private college respondents were equally likely to agree with the statement, "My institution is increasing attention on the ability of our degree programs to help students get a good job."
Only 2% of academic leaders who participated in the survey did not agree with the statement.
Related: Here's why your graduates are underemployed—and how to fix it
Previous Gallup research has found that students are lukewarm about career preparation on campus. In that survey, only 16% of students who visited their institution's career services office rated the experience as "very helpful."
That study also found evidence that investing in career services may be worth the investment. The students who rated their career services office as "very helpful" were also much more likely to agree that:
- Their college prepared them well for post-graduation life;
- Their education was worth the cost; and
- They would recommend their college to others.
But for all of the efforts to prepare students for the job market, provosts are retaining their support for liberal arts education. In the 2017 survey, 90% of respondents agree or strongly agree that liberal arts education "is central to undergraduate education—even in professional programs." That's roughly the same number that agreed or strongly agreed in 2016.
Busting myths about the liberal arts
Despite strong support, though, the respondents worry for the future of liberal arts and higher education's ability to reconcile liberal arts with career preparation. Fifty-four percent of respondents agree or strongly agree with the statement, "I expect to see the number of liberal arts colleges decline significantly over the next five years." And 60% agree or strongly agree with the statement, "politicians, presidents, and boards are increasingly unsympathetic to liberal arts education." The respondents express interest in finding new ways to connect liberal arts and career preparation:
- 33% agree or strongly agree that liberal arts education "has become too divorced from the career needs of students and graduates"; and
- 33% also agree or strongly agree that "liberal arts faculty members are not sufficiently interested in the desire of parent s or students for career preparation."
(Calderon/Jones, Gallup, 1/26; Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 1/25).
Reclaim the value of the liberal arts for the 21st century
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