University students lose out to certificate programs

New and different models of higher education provide students with the means for immediate employment.


Eliana Park/THE CHIMES

Lucas Weaver, Writer

The rising cost of college and mountain of debt awaiting the majority of college students are hard obstacles to overcome. The United States government is struggling with how to deal with this mountain and free up students to be successful. We have entered a “prove-it” economy where employers are looking for those who can step in and contribute immediately. Unfortunately, four-year college students are losing jobs to those who have attended non-degree programs and are ready much sooner to enter the workforce.

quick employment

The workforce has begun to shift its focus more to employing those with credentials over the typical four-year degree. Many people do not want to waste their time with a formal education and instead seek out skills which result in a job directly out of that program. The job culture, according to Anant Agarwal, the CEO of edX, “is moving to smaller and smaller credentials and continuous education.” Specializing in certain skills can allow for employment much more quickly than a four-year bachelor’s degree. The idea of continuous education and stacking credentials overtime has become much more appealing to many. Instead of completing one degree all at once, people are earning credentials, obtaining employment and then adding to their skills.

Some schools have joined the Right Signals Initiative, which is a pilot project aimed at breaking up learning so students can earn short-term credentials. These credentials can create job opportunities immediately and be used for a later degree. Schools such as Drexel University have added 30 new educational-certificate programs over the past four years. With advances in technology happening continually, professionals must always be adding more towards their own set of skills. Employers are looking for those who are ready to work immediately and have a willingness to receive more training.

an alternative form of college

There are organizations offering an alternative form of college, such as MissionU. It is a 12-month-long program which combines online and in-person learning to give its students skills which will land them a job directly out of the program. There is no tuition and graduates will pay 15 percent of their income for three years when they reach $50,000 a year. MissionU was created to show people you do not need a four-year degree in order to obtain gainful employment.

A survey done in March by the Rockefeller Foundation found half of recent college graduates are not using skills they learned in college at work. A total of 86 percent said they are learning new skills outside of work. With an ever-changing workforce and new technology, being able to perform certain skills and being open to learning new skills is very important in becoming successful.

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