The future of the university

With each passing year, students attend college to earn a degree that prepares them for their future job all the while, student loan debt grows to over a trillion dollars. Students leave their universities with their shiny new degrees and enter the workforce bright-eyed and ready to please. But more often than not, these students are not prepared for the required tasks of even an entry-level position. Students are graduating with four-year degrees and forced into a part-time position with poor pay and no health insurance until they gain that experience. Some decide to go to graduate school to specialize but most master’s degrees don’t pay a stipend meaning that these students rack up more loan debt.

This has to change.

This is not sustainable.

It won’t stay like this.

Because it can’t.

But these problems are just as much a problem with universities as they are with the government, the economy, and the health care system. Already, we are talking about universal health care and free college. Higher education will be entirely free in the state of New York for residents of New York for student families that make under $125,000 a year. This amount encapsulates a large proportion of the middle to low-income residents of NY which are those that are coming out of college with the largest amount of debt. I imagine more and more states will move toward this model eventually leaving more states with this model than those without. People will start to move to states with this model and other states will have to follow to save their economy.

To touch on students coming out of college ill-prepared to handle an entry-level job: Some schools have incorporated an internship or co-op requirement in their curriculum. While this is incredibly important, it is also adding time to earn some degrees which is adding more debt on young Americans whom are just starting their lives and have nothing. This can be combatted by making school more trade-like. Students would take classes on top of working with a local company or in more lab-like, hands-on environments (for schools in small towns with no companies). And this would be started early rather than being done for just ten weeks the summer before their senior year of college. If they are afforded the opportunity to work with a local company in their future job of choice then companies would pay them for their work. Either of these methods would prepare students early for their future job and could mitigate the need for 2-5 years of experience on a job posting.

3 Replies to “The future of the university”

  1. I really appreciate your comments on how our graduates may be unprepared for the career field upon graduation. I would be interested to know more about how this might vary from one field to another. In my personal experience I went straight from undergrad to grad school and was never in the position to seek long-term full-time employment until I graduated with my master’s degree.

  2. I think part of the issue is that to many companies and industries entry-level positions require 1-2 years experience. In some cases this plays out as 1-2 years experience = unpaid/low pay internships. For example, I was an intern at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City I stayed in intern housing that Columbia University housing. While I was an intern I received free housing, meal stipend, and a lump salary. The interns for fashion industry received housing, one meal reimbursed a day (lunch) that they worked through anyways, and no salary. This behaviour of not paying interns is common in the fashion industry and everyone who goes to work in fashion is expected to have had an internship “prior work experience.” So as long as unpaid internships exist I don’t see people graduating with only degrees able to get entry-level jobs.

  3. You bring up good points and I agree that something needs to change. From your comments regarding entry level positions, at least from my experience during my one-year in industry. My employer understood that we needed training for the specific tasks we were required to do or were expected to do. Some aspects were assumed to be known by us the engineers in terms of how certain materials behaved and identifying red flags in our results (computer software based). Regarding internships, I think it is definitely a valuable experience but I would see it difficult for a university to make it mandatory, mainly because some universities do not have the same opportunities available to their students and some are just more well known for certain types of disciplines. A lot is dependent on a company’s need and resources as well as finding a match between the student and the company which can be time consuming and risky for both parties. Overall though I think there is definitely room for improvement in the way academics approach this dilemma but a lot is dependent on the economy and availability for interns.

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