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College presidents concerned institutions not providing job training skills

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A new survey conducted by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed revealed that while college presidents want to help recent graduates find jobs, their institutions struggle to do so. The study showed a disconnect between the emphasis on “critical thinking” skills and personal development that nine out of ten presidents said are very important throughout college so graduates are prepared to get jobs, and how effective colleges are at providing students with those skills. Only about 40 percent of the presidents felt their schools were successful in preparing students with adequate skills and development.

In the online survey, 801 presidents from a variety of American higher education institutions gave their opinions between May 15 and June 5, although the sample is not meant to represent the nation’s colleges. The survey confirms that the presidents are thinking about skills students need for the real world job market, although many of them see their institutions lacking in preparing students for those skills.

Similarly, 78 percent of the presidents said they felt that providing internships was important for students to apply what they were learning to real world experiences, but just 38 percent felt their schools were delivering on this.

John Pryor, a senior researcher at Gallup who specializes in higher education, sees the discrepancy between the institutions' goals and reality has said, “This calls for a serious change.” He said that some of the things the presidents had hoped to do but were not doing well could certainly help the students find great jobs.

The presidents also reported the ability to increase their institutions budgets, with most using the money for faculty: 72 percent are raising staff salaries and 71 percent raising faculty salaries. Other money uses include: 76 percent putting new money into redesigning school courses, 66 percent spending on faculty development, 81 percent increasing student recruitment efforts, and 58 percent using funds for facilities maintenance.

In other efforts, college presidents also think about mixing classroom learning with online homework and lectures, creating an environment know as blended learning. Blending learning is separate from MOOC courses, the massive open online courses that have impacted traditional college classes. Pryor, the Gallup researcher said, “We contrast that (blended learning) with the idea of MOOCs, where there was a lot of discussion going on, but not a lot of action.” Pryor continued, “We’re really seeing that there is much more emphasis now on using part of the online experience to enhance what goes on in the classroom, rather than to replace it.” For many, there is room for a variety of learning options.

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