Business Leaders Doubt Higher-Ed’s Value

Are American colleges really the best in the world? One group that really matters–the business leaders who want to hire college graduates–seem skeptical.

A recent poll conducted by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation found that while 37 percent of business leaders believed that the United States has the best system of higher-education, a sizable 32 precent disagreed. More significantly, one-third of the survey’s participants disagreed with the statement that American higher-education provided students with “the skills and competences that my business needs.”

In contrast, university adminstrators are far more optimistic. When Inside Higher Ed asked administrators whether their institutions succeed at “preparing students for the world of work,” 55 percent said that their schools were “very effective” and 40 percent said they were “somewhat effective.” Unfortunately for students, it’s not the opinion of their deans and provosts that matters, but that of the managers who make hiring decisions.

Fortunately, there’s a silver lining–somewhat. The Gallup poll shows that the despite their misgivings, business leaders will continue to hire American graduates. 57 percent “strongly disagree” that they should hire foreign-born workers due the failings of American higher education. Only 4 percent said they “strongly agree” that they should. This statistic will reassure the higher-education establishment; however, if the doubts of business leaders continue to grow, it’s hard to imagine  them hiring under-prepared Americans forever.

One thought on “Business Leaders Doubt Higher-Ed’s Value”

  1. I’ll bet if you asked the public if the United States has the best business leaders in the world, you would find a lot of people who would not agree. So it’s not surprising that many business leaders might not think the U.S. higher education system is the greatest.
    Most of us tend to overestimate ourselves. I’ll bet if you asked business leaders if they turn out a fine, well-valued product, they would overwhelmingly agree. But you might find a different view among consumers.
    Anyhow, why should higher education necessarily provide “the skills and competences that MY business needs”? If this means that hirees from, say, UC Irvine should be able to hit the ground running at, say, Goldman Sachs or Boeing or name your company — I don’t see why they should. In fact, this is a demand that would be almost impossible to meet.
    The real test, as with the rest of us, is how business leaders behave, not what they say.
    When they start recruiting students from China or Europe over Americans to be employed in the open market — as opposed to hiring visa holders for work in sweatshop-like restrictions — then I’ll really believe the American graduates are in trouble.

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