Ryan Craig, a managing director at University Ventures who is working to create new pathways from education to employment, is skeptical of this notion about the current value of college. He argues there is a concerning and widening divergence between being career-ready and college-educated.

“Colleges continue to act as though they’re preparing students for their fifth job, not their first job,” he says. “Unfortunately, we now know that if students don’t get good first jobs, they’re probably not going to get good fifth jobs.” Furthermore, pointing to low college completion rates nationally, Craig is “…hugely concerned that nostalgic adherence to the college model has yielded crises of affordability, completion and employability.”

For all the training around critical thinking that colleges continue to provide, Craig argues there has been a major shift in the kind of skills employers are looking for — toward more practical, technical, software-oriented and digital competencies. College must therefore be reimagined and consumed differently.

Civil Discourse Prompts
Can the K-12 education system effectively and simultaneously prepare students for college and the workforce without tracking students by either college or career?
Are students graduating from high school with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce?
Are college students career-ready when they graduate?

Despite their different perspectives, Coleman and Craig ultimately identify a similar concern about education in America today for students who pursue college or a career: a lack of student readiness for what comes next. In life, students will one day have to balance the pursuit of their dreams, the desire to deploy their talents and the need to make a living. If their readiness for such a moment is lacking, have they received the freedom and opportunity promised by their education?

David Coleman CEO
The college board

Previously named to Time’s 100 Most Influential list, David Coleman took the helm of the College Board in 2012. Under David’s leadership, the College Board successfully redesigned the SAT, which is now being taken by more students than at any other time in history and is the most widely used college entrance exam. And Advanced Placement participation and performance for students of all backgrounds continue to go up in tandem.

“Fifteen years ago, only one in 10 AP students came from low-income households. Today, it’s one in five…”
David Coleman, CEO, The College Board


“I believe the value of education is the freedom to make your own life decisions and the capacity to see them through.”

– David Coleman, president and CEO, The College Board

Man in a black suit and tie smiling
Ryan Craig Managing Director
University Ventures

Ryan Craig is the author of College Disrupted (2015) and A New U: Faster + Cheaper Alternatives to College (2018). He is a managing director at University Ventures, which is reimagining the future of higher education and creating new pathways from education to employment.

“Across virtually every industry, technical skills now outnumber all others in job descriptions…”
Ryan Craig, Managing Director, University Ventures


“I believe the value of education is to provide pathways to economic opportunity. Education is at the heart of the American dream.”

– Ryan Craig, managing director, University Ventures

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Freedom is the capacity to keep choosing, to keep practicing, to be ready for opportunity wherever and whenever it arises. That’s the promise education makes and the dream we try to make real.

This statement brings the purpose of education around full circle. Education leads to freedom which spurs opportunity and ability to achieve life goals and to be a prosperous citizen. Without education, there is no opportunity, and there is not opportunity without education.

our schools should encourage a deeper exploration of the spiritual world, a more thorough introduction to public life and a wider engagement with age-old questions of the soul.

I agree with the idea that schools should spend more time teaching students how to solve real world problems that can't be solved with an equation, but I'm hesitant about the spirituality part because it could turn into a situation where one viewpoint is pushed as the only or right view.

His primary criticism, though, is that “we do too little to help students navigate the change from the structured world of high school to the more open-ended challenges beyond.” This is true for college-bound and workplace-bound students alike, Coleman says, stressing the need to teach young people to be ready for life, citizenship and “the weight of adult decisions.

There is a drastic shift from the very structured high school to the freedom that students experience as they enter college. It could be beneficial to find ways to better prepare juniors and seniors in high school to begin to make more decisions and have more freedom while they are still at home so they are better prepared to jump into the real world and college.

A very powerful way to own your future is to go to college, a decision that can greatly expand a student’s capacities to be a productive citizen, to earn more, to pursue intellectual passions and become who they want to become.

College is an excellent way to own one's future. However, it isn't the only way. There are many people who simply do not want to go to college for one reason or another. They may choose a trade school, or some other path. These alternative choices are also important in providing hope to young adults who choose not to go to college.

With nearly 50 percent of students matriculating at college failing to graduate, and nearly 50 percent of graduates graduating into underemployment, my colleagues and I have coined the term “Last-Mile Training” to reflect the skills employers are seeking for entry-level positions, primarily: digital — which, given the complex nature of business software, also entails some knowledge of how the business and industry in question actually work — as well as soft skills.

Tons of technological jobs go unfilled because there are not enough trained people to fill them. Additionally, students are not taught how to create a professional email, and this is just one crucial "soft skill" that many employers look for.

n a major shift in the kind of skills employers are looking for — toward more practical, technical, software-oriented and digital competencies.

While I have no doubt in my mind that this claim is true and grounded in reality, I worry that this neglects to give adequate emphasis on the need for college graduates and young professionals to have adequate people/social skills. While it is important to train students in technical and advanced "hard" skills, this can lead to an unintended consequence which is the rise of employable individuals who lack the proficiency in compassion, empathy, and interaction skills.

he freedom to make decisions about your life, and the capacity to see those decisions through,”

This really reminds me of classical interpretation of virtue. Education is for the purpose of creating virtuous citizens that will make the right choose in the polis.

Craig argues there has been a major shift in the kind of skills employers are looking for — toward more practical, technical, software-oriented and digital competencie

Skills are not matching the demands of the markets.

While recognizing that pursuing a career immediately out of high school is a legitimate path to independence for some students, Coleman also defends the value of a college education, calling it “a very powerful way to own your future” — one that is capable of producing more productive citizens who earn higher salaries and are freer to follow their passions and interests.

Knowledge and education is empowerment.

Meanwhile, college’s trajectory has only changed by a few degrees, if at all. A few months ago, I spoke to an audience of several hundred college administrators and faculty and asked them whether their schools provided students with the option to learn Salesforce. Not one hand went up

It seems that colleges may need to consider implementing degrees that are more applicable to more realistic entry level jobs. This will ensure more equal access to opportunity.

Today, “career ready” has taken off in an orthogonal, technological direction, drifting away from college.

This term is used so much in the colleges, and to some degree I think that yes we should be preparing students to gain employment in their preferred area of study or in ther career choice- but realistically, one doesnt graduate college and get the job of thier dreams on their first job seeking experience. I think that we have made it so difficult for students to find employment because employers are looking for "the perfect" candidate and students are looking for the perfect job but do thosse actually exist? Or should we be looking beyond the intense resume scanning tactics

Exploring a career before college is another route to independence for many student

More needs to be said about this issue. Many college students may have no idea about what course in life or job they would like to pursue truly is. Perhaps taking a gap year to explore potential interests or participate in national service would help guide students toward pursuing meaningful careers later on.