Thursday, December 2, 2010

College Grads Need Experience

The National Survey of Student Engagement 2010 is out with good news and bad news about our higher education system.  There are some interesting statistics form the survey of 362,000 first year and senior students at 564 U.S. Colleges and Universities.

From the report:
  • Only about two in five seniors majoring in business administration or accounting have held internships or field placements, compared to the overall average of 50%, and students of color were less likely to have held an internship or field placement compared to their white peers.
  • African Americans were half as likely as their white peers to have studied abroad, and Latino students were one-third less likely to have done so.
I have two girls in the James Madison University Business program and I was very disappointed in the internship program.  It is not mandatory and there is little help provided to the students.  Luckily we saw a posting from www.Straighterline.com 's marketing chief and she has had a great internship.

Both daughters will have completed a semester abroad as well - but it comes with a hefty price tag of over $10,000 for the program, $3,500 for housing and around $4,000 for spending money.  So on top of normal tuition, you need an extra $17,500. My first daughter who studied in Belgium came back with an incredible appreciation for European history, culture and business and really matured so I do feel this is an excellent investment.  But it is financially daunting. 

Schools have to work with students who are first generation in college to help them in both of these areas.  Missing out on an internship will seriously hinder the job search - but if you don't know this, you will not make it a priority unless it is mandatory.  And believe me - there are a lot of non-profits that would love to have some interns help them with their mission.  Creating scholarships for studying abroad - or making it less financially punishing - would go a long way towards helping more students access this invaluable part of higher learning.

More support is needed so that all students have access to the incredibly valuable experiential learning programs available in college.  I hope more schools read and take action from this report.