by Jaime S. Fall
Vice President, Workforce and Talent Sustainability
HR Policy Foundation
On February 18, 2015, the Washington Post published an opinion piece by Catherine Rampell (@crampell) Why do Americans go to college? First and foremost, they want better jobs. In it she reports that the Cooperative Institutional Research Program has been surveying incoming college freshmen for over 40 years about why they are attending college. Not surprisingly, in 2014 “To be able to get a better job” had the highest response with 86.1 percent calling it a “very important” reason for why they went to college. Coming in with the lowest rate of responses was “To make me a more cultured person” with 46.6 percent of respondents identifying it as a "very important" factor in their decision. As Ms. Rampell points out, the numbers on the survey can fluctuate, however, "To be able to get a better job" is always at or near the top of the list while, "To make me a more cultured person" has come in last every year since the survey began in 1971. Ms. Rampell is right when she concludes "Given students’ stated objectives for going to college, persistently high youth unemployment rates, and employer complaints about grads’ lack of preparation for the workforce, it seems reasonable to ask colleges to think harder about the practical skills and career guidance they’re giving their students. A liberal arts education and marketable job skills need not be mutually exclusive." Which leaves one question: With college debt now well over $1 trillion and student loan default rates topping that of credit cards, why are we still having this debate?