In 1976, 68% of incoming first-year Carolina students reported that a primary reason for going to college was to be able to get a better job. By 2012 that number had climbed to 88%. We’ve seen a similar trend among students’ parents, who are more concerned than ever about the return on their investment in their children’s college education. Even the federal government may tie aid dollars to universities’ success in placing their graduates in good jobs. And employers are demanding college students graduate with higher levels of work readiness.
We are experiencing a paradigm shift in higher education, and while some might decry this change, I see enormous opportunity for our university and tremendous benefits for our students by adding to our liberal arts mission the purpose of cultivating lifelong learners with employability and life management skills.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers has found that prospective employers’ most prized competencies of new hires include: ability to work in a team, leadership, problem-solving skills, communication skills and analytical skills.
Those attributes should look familiar. Every one of them is fostered by our beyond-the-classroom educational experiences, from peer leadership to student organizations to study abroad and undergraduate research programs. They’re the traits exhibited by the leaders honored and supported by the Carolina Leadership Initiative. And they’re the skills enhanced by USC Connect, which guides students to integrate their experiences.
At the University of South Carolina, there is unprecedented opportunity for students to learn concepts in their courses and apply them outside their classroom walls. We call it theory-to-practice. In fact, today’s classrooms have no walls!
By re-centering the college curriculum and integrating the in- and beyond-the-classroom education, we can preserve the traditional curriculum and enhance it with the benefits that come from participatory learning. We can create good scholars, good leaders, good employees and good citizens. We can offer an education that’s second to none, and in this new higher education landscape, we can be leaders in advancing our citizens’ opportunities for success.