THE BLOG

Dear Class of 2015: College Failed You

06/09/2015 05:45 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2016

Welcome to the workforce, class of 2015. Our broken college education system failed you and your "wage scar" will cost you for decades to come.

You are Unprepared for the Workforce
Two in three college graduates say that they graduated with a skills mismatch, according to Harvard Business Review. The majority of graduates say that they are unprepared for their current job and one third say their lack of skills led them to either miss a promotion or not get a job. Just 41% of college graduates say that their degree helps them succeed on the job. The key skills missing were usually computer and technical skills.

You Didn't Learn Very Much
In his book Academically Adrift, Richard Arum found that one in three college graduates showed no statistically significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills. A 2006 study funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that approximately 20% of bachelor's students and 30% of associates degree students had only 'basic quantitate skills' - they could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the gas station, for example. Three quarters of students at two-year colleges and the majority of bachelor's candidates could not score at the proficient level of literacy.

You Didn't Receive Career Support
It's not necessary your fault: your college obsessed with spending its money on a new cafeteria and environmentally friendly architecture. It sacrificed your career. The median student-academic advisor ratio is estimated to be around 1:300. Because there is no data available on student satisfaction rates with career advisors, we surveyed 100+ students at 28 universities. While our sample was by no means representative, its results are telling. 79% of students said that they rarely or never see their career advisors and 92% said they would like more support in setting and accomplishing career goals.

You Majored in the Wrong Subject
When you got to college, you were told to pursue your intellectual curiosities without consideration to future career options. But when you graduated, 50% of students said they would have chosen a different major or a different school. Despite increasing demand for engineers, fewer and fewer students are pursuing degrees in engineering, technology and computer science. In 1980, these students represented 11.1% of graduates; today they only represent 8.9% of students. New students are instead gravitating toward the social sciences, which they believe will have a more manageable workload.

The Result: Massive Underemployment
In May 2013, McKinsey conducted a full-scale analysis of the problems we identity. They concluded that, "The voice of the graduate" revealed in this survey amounts to a cry for help--an urgent call to deepen the relevance of higher education to employment and entrepreneurship so that the promise of higher education is fulfilled."

McKinsey found that half of all college graduates take jobs for which they are overqualified - with liberal arts majors fairing particularly badly. 23% of students said their colleges could have prepared them better with stronger career services, 13% said that emphasis needed to be placed on practical skills development, and 18% said the top priority should be real work experience.

Colleges need to fundamentally rethink their role in society. As more than half of Americans decide to pursue college degrees, these institutions can no longer be considered hubs of aimless intellectual discovery, but rather pointed institutions meant to help young Americans transition to the workforce. Universities (public and private) should only be re-certified if they can demonstrate that greater than 25% of their students demonstrate gains in critical thinking and verbal skills - a bare minimum requirement.

The federal government can help by publishing statistics on the work-readiness of recent graduates. State and local governments need to reform public universities - over which they exert direct control - to ensure that they are focusing on career skills, promoting vocational training and helping their students get real work experience early.

In 2014, only 28% of students without internship experience received job offers by the winter of their senior years, compared with 61% of students who had internships according Bloomberg Business Week. And right now, students are usually left on their own to find these opportunities, aided only by website like Campus Jobs and Internships.com. Promoting internships is an easy area of improvement for colleges.

Despite their failings, colleges continue to raise tuition - the ten-year historical rate of increase is 5%. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000. The average student graduates with $29,400 is student loans.

Thanks for nothing, college.