With great pride, David Pate, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at St. John Fisher College near Rochester, New York told a reporter for the Wall Street Journal last week that seniors at his college will be taking an SAT-like assessment that "aims to cut through grade point averages and judge students' real value to employers." In an article titled "Colleges Set to Offer Exit Tests," Pate said that St. John Fisher students are joining students at 200 U. S Colleges in participating in an exam that will "provide an objective, benchmarked report card for critical thinking skills ... students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves."
The new voluntary test is part of a growing awareness that colleges and universities may not be doing enough to prepare graduates for the workforce. According to a 2010 survey conducted for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, only one in four employers think that colleges and universities are doing a good job preparing students for the global economy. This, at the same time GPAs have been rising for decades. The Wall Street Journal article points out that a 2012 study looking at the grades of 1.5 million students from 200 four year U. S. colleges and universities reveals that the percentage of A's given by professors nearly tripled between 1940 and 2008. The Wall Street Journal reports that employers like Google claim there is little correlation between GPAs and job success -- and General Mills and Procter and Gamble use their own job applicant assessments.
President Barack Obama has joined the debate by suggesting that the federal government needed to become involved in rating colleges and universities -- linking federal student aid to college ratings. This can only end badly. John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America told a reporter for the Washington Post that Catholic colleges face particular obstacles from the proposed Obama plan. Involving the government in overseeing the intellectual life of a Catholic college is asking for trouble. The Obama administration has already threatened the religious freedom of Catholic colleges and universities through his administration's Health and Human Services mandate requiring that religious employers provide insurance coverage that includes abortion inducing drugs as well as contraceptives and sterilization procedures. My own university, Franciscan University of Steubenville filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the Obama administration's unprecedented mandate that attacks the freedom to practice religion without government interference. Franciscan University maintains that the requirement to fund and facilitate such activities violates its core religious and moral convictions as a Catholic university.
Rather than involving the federal government in the academic life of the university -- or creating yet another exam for college seniors to endure in order to become employable, the better idea would be for colleges and universities to simply deliver the education they have promised to deliver to prospective students.
Being honest in their promotional materials would be a good start.