Jan 2020

A Not-So-Tidy Narrative

Students aren’t going to college just to get a job — and that matters, write Michael B. Horn and Bob Moesta.

By Michael B. Horn and Bob Moesta

January 6, 2020
A narrative has emerged over the past several years that the majority of students attend college to get a job. According to the University of California, Los Angeles’s annual survey of freshmen entering four-year colleges and universities, roughly 85 percent say they are going so they can get a job. That is up from roughly two-thirds in the 1970s, although down slightly from its peak in 2012.

Debates have subsequently broken out on the pages of Inside Higher Ed and other news media outlets about whether and how colleges should respond. Should colleges refashion themselves as pathways into jobs, or should they stand aside from the focus on economic returns and reinforce their role as paragons of a well-rounded and foundational liberal arts education?

Research we’ve conducted over the last several years, however, shows the narrative that students are going to college simply to get a job isn’t quite so tidy. The decision-making process is far more complicated.


Leave a reply