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College -- All That Money and For What?

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This post was co-authored by Jay Forte

According to statistics from The College Board, the moderate cost per year for a public state college is just over $22,000, and for a private institution, it's just over $43,000. Considering it takes an average of just over four years to complete an undergraduate degree, most people will spend between $90,000 and $200,000 for that degree. All that money and for what?

How ready is that graduating student to add value and make a significant difference as great employees in today's fast-paced and constantly changing workplace? The solution is in rethinking the partnership between education providers, employers and students who seem to be moving in different directions instead of collaborating to amplify the performance of each.

The source of the disconnect in each group can be indentified as follows:

  • Students -- they don't know their unique abilities, their hardwired talents, strengths and passions that create their built-in workplace and life competitive advantage. Without proper guidance in high school, they choose majors that do not align to their core abilities, resulting in average college performance and inadequate workplace preparation.
  • Education providers -- they are slow to change curricula or to connect to what is happening in today's world. As a result, they frequently offer students an outdated and ineffective approach to prepare for entry-level work positions. Additionally, they don't intentionally, creatively and effectively guide students in how to create a customized approach to their time in college to be ready for work and life upon graduation.
  • Employers -- by not actively and boldly partnering with or supporting education providers, they encourage a continued lack of active skill development required for effective new hires. According to Education to Employment: Designing a System that Works Executive Summary by McKinsey and Company, 45 percent of U.S. employers say that a lack of skills is the main reason for entry-level vacancies

So what is the real and practical value of college education as it relates to preparing the future high-performance employee? The solution will require a collaborative effort between employers, students and colleges to transform college education into something more relevant, more affordable and more practical.

Critical to success in any college environment, and ultimately success in the workplace, is for a student to be aware of why he is in college. Yet in an informal poll of 100 students at both a small private college and a larger state university, 87 percent of the students could not identify their strengths, talents and passions. Move over, fewer were clear or intentional about what they wanted from college or their degree.

In an effort to reverse this trend, Lynn University provides a new approach to its Entrepreneurship and Innovation required freshman business course. In addition to learning the fundamentals of business, the students are taken through a self-discovery process presented in the book The Greatness Zone by Jay Forte, that helps them identify their talents, strengths and passions. They develop what is called their Greatness Factor that allows them to create and deliver their personal branding statement; they now have the information and the language to share their core and unique abilities with themselves and others.

Their instructors then guide them to better understand their world -- its needs, challenges and opportunities. Once completed, they create a service or product that connects their core talents to solve or address a need, challenge or opportunity on campus, in their community or in the world. They are then asked to use what they know of themselves and their world to define a specific career or direction after graduation. Once defined, they are coached how to build a plan to redefine their time at college to ensure they achieve their objective. This is where the business community is brought in, as students move into internships and other real life applications that advance their talents, skills and awareness of their world.

This approach expands what students know of themselves, requires the university to better respond to their needs to be prepared for life after graduation, and connects them with businesses to build networks, investigate real work options and develop marketable skills.

Manpower -- human capital -- is the most significant asset in today's organizations. To create this resource, employers, students and education providers must work collectively to prepare college students in an effective, practical and efficient way to step boldly into the workplace to drive performance and the economy. This is the belief that guides the College of Business and Management at Lynn University.