Friday, September 5, 2014

Do skills matter more than degrees?

Two sociologists did a study four years ago of how much learning takes place in college, and the results were not encouraging.  Scores on the Collegiate Learning Assessment were only half a standard deviation higher for seniors than they were for freshmen.  To use statistical terms, you cannot reject the null hypothesis of "no learning takes place."  The results were not uniform; those in the arts and sciences learned more than those in business and communications.

Now they have done a follow up study of how these 2009 graduates did in the labor market.  The results, summarized in NYT, show that those with the highest scores have done the best professionally.

Even after statistically controlling for students’ sociodemographic characteristics, college majors and college selectivity, those who finished school with high C.L.A. scores were significantly less likely to be unemployed than those who had low C.L.A. scores. The difference was even larger when it came to success in the workplace. Low-C.L.A. graduates were twice as likely as high-C.L.A. graduates to lose their jobs between 2010 and 2011, suggesting that employers can tell who got a good college education and who didn’t. Low-C.L.A. graduates were also 50 percent more likely to end up in an unskilled occupation, and were less likely to be satisfied with their jobs.
Overall the college graduates in this study still did much better than their counterparts who did not finish college.  But once again, this study shows that employers hire and reward for skill not credentials -- an important message for faculty, administrators, and students.  

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