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The Commencement Speech You Haven't Heard: It's Me, Your Student

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If we could do it all over again, we would make different choices.

30% of us don't have the skills we need to find employment. To find jobs that will help us launch our careers, pay off our student loans, begin our future.

And the jobs we do find? Well 42% of us are working in a role that doesn't even require the degree we worked so hard to achieve. That means nearly half of us didn't need you, nor did we need to go in to debt for a degree that isn't boosting our earning power, a degree that didn't open any doors.

It's graduation season, and we're usually the ones listening to the speeches. But right now, there are some things we want to say to you, our alma maters.

You've been grading us for years. Now it's time for your report card. The bad news is you're failing. The good news is we can fix this.

What needs to be fixed? College is too expensive - in the past 10 years, costs have risen by 66%. It's not helping us find jobs - our unemployment rate has increased by 56%. And it's bankrupting us before we even have a chance to earn a dollar - our student loan debt has increased by 70%.

Believe it or not, if we could do it all over again, even those of us who went to the top 100 universities would have picked a different major or a different school.

So, what do we wish we had asked of you before we started? And what do we wish you had told us?

  • How many years does it actually take to graduate with a 4 year degree?
  • How many students have a job within 6 months of graduation?
  • How many have a job in their field of study?
  • How many of those jobs require a degree?

We'd all agree that the answers to these questions would not be good.

The good news is that our schools did equip us to identify and communicate problems, and also how to take steps to fix these problems.

As we separate and go off into the world, here are the questions we urge you to answer:

  • Would you add more curriculum, or less?
  • Would you continue to decrease access, and increase price?
  • Or would you find ways to expand access and lower the cost?
  • After calculating the amount of time spent at school versus the time spent at school actually learning, would you change the ratio?
  • What would be the most important variables in rebuilding college rankings? Would they be size of endowments and rate of enrollment? Or, would you focus on outcomes, opportunities, and the future success of your student?

We are digital natives. We've only grown up knowing the Internet and mobile, and we've always been able to access what we want, when and where we want it. We've never been bound by geography, time of day, or class size. We propose that you leverage technology, data and mobility to the advantage of your students, and the institution we love so much.

We believe there should be more online courses--accredited, non-accredited, and skills-based--which expand curriculum and access, lower cost, and most importantly, help us learn about things we need to know before we go off into the workforce. We believe that all 101 classes should be made available online so that if a classroom is filled, we don't have to take extra time to graduate, incurring increased debt.

We believe that you should work with businesses to bring in online skills-based training so that with our 4-year degree, we also have practical skills and assets that can help us in the workplace.

We believe that you should follow the advice you gave us:

  • Be bold
  • Be fearless
  • Fail fast
  • Change the world

Chegg collaborated with McKinsey on the findings above. Download and read the report here.