Training to Achieve the American Dream; Job Success Is Key to Assessing Quality of Higher Education
Camden, Carl, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Carl Camden, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
While speculation rages about who will win the presidency, there is no mystery over what will define the 2012 election. The candidate who makes the best case for putting people back to work and creating jobs will triumph, period.
As someone who has gone from public assistance and food stamps to tenured university professor and department chairman to CEO of one of the largest corporate employers in America, I've felt the pressure both to get a job and to create jobs. As I see it, America needs to get out of its own way.
We boast some of the best higher education institutions in the world, yet they are not turning out graduates with the skills our economy needs. We rank 27th among 42 developed nations in the proportion of students with undergraduate degrees in science and engineering. More than 2 million jobs are still going unfilled because companies say they can't find qualified applicants.
But we can fix this situation. How?
Let go of campus nostalgia. First, we have to let go of our idealized view of the traditional American college experience and images of 18-year-old dependents spending four years in dorms and lecture halls before emerging as well-rounded scholars and taxpaying citizens.
Today's college experience is vastly different from that of a generation ago. Nontraditional students - part-time and community college students, commuters and single parents - are the new majority. They shouldn't have to choose between work, family and an opportunity for greater economic and social mobility based on an outdated education model. Yet too many of them are forced to make that choice, and it is the main reason they leave school before graduation.
To meet students' needs and improve completion rates, programs must offer faster, more flexible and more affordable paths to a degree or postsecondary certificate. Students need access to targeted curricula with shorter terms, less time between terms, and year-round scheduling options. They need online courses, which can slash on-campus time. They need entrance exams that award credits - or allow students to advance - based on a demonstration of key competencies, thereby cutting completion time and boosting graduation rates.
In higher education, we need to give stronger focus and support for STEM specialties (science, technology, engineering, math) by forgiving loans, creating internships, providing extra funding to incentivize students to choose - and complete - programs that meet the demands of today's job market.
Create more programs with earning power. Simply graduating more students is not enough. We also must forge better alignment between what postsecondary education produces and what businesses need. …