Does College Prepare Students for the Workforce?

It is common knowledge that some form of higher education is necessary for a majority of careers—at least this is the impression that countless students in university have. For many, university is merely a stepping stone to a professional career. Students are willing to incur large amounts of debt in hopes that their undergraduate and graduate education will prepare them for a job in the workforce. But is this true? Having a university degree definitely aids in the hiring process but does it actually prepare people once they actually get the job?

To really understand this situation we need to look at what the real goal of college is. Traditionally, university was a place for scholars and academics to broaden their education, not vocational training. The definition of university is, “An institution of higher education offering tuition in mainly non-vocational subjects and typically having the power to confer degrees”. University is not set up in a way to train people for work; students are often taught skills they will not need in the workforce. Universities provide a great environment for critical thinking and academic development but do not give students real life experience. Colleges do not ensure student outcome. University does not give students an idea of what their career will be like so even if they do obtain a job, it may be completely different from what they imagined and therefore they may be unhappy or unprepared. Another problem is that universities are increasingly treating students as customers. Rather than cultivating knowledge, many schools are simply interested in leaching money while students accumulate massive debt. The most obvious example of this is the profit-centered online schools. “A serial offender [The University of Phoenix], the 40-year-old college is now under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and several state attorneys general for deceptive advertising and recruitment abuses of veterans, among other vulnerable groups… the University of Phoenix still received about $1.7 billion in government student loans last year, making up 80 percent of its revenues ”. These schools are advertising that education at their university will prepare students for the workforce, which is largely untrue. Programs in the medical or law fields may be an exception to this trend but it seems that while schools gives you the degree and the connections you may need, it does not give you an entirely accurate picture of what the workforce is really like.

If university is not preparing students for the workforce, how are they supposed to succeed after leaving school? The answer that my adviser continues to offer me is internships. Internships give students real work experience and an idea about if they are entering the right field. Unfortunately, a majority of these internships are unpaid so it is often not a realistic option for a majority of students who are already in debt because of the high costs of university. Ideally, people should be given the time and opportunities to really explore their options and where these options could take them. Because of high costs and other pressures, students don’t have this opportunity. College definitely gives students skills that can be transferred to all aspects of daily life, but many students are graduating without the skills necessary to succeed and be happy in the workforce.

-Athena Androulakakis

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