A college degree may not be all it's cracked up to be. That is the conclusion of a new Wall Street Journal study that examined test results for hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. The report looked at the College Learning Assessment Plus, which is used by schools to measure students' critical thinking skills from their freshman year to senior year. The study revealed that at more than half of the schools, at least a third of seniors did not demonstrate adequate critical thinking skills. In addition, the average senior showed little or no improvement in critical thinking over their college career.
A similar study last year also revealed poor job skills for recent graduates. While the results reflect poorly on how American universities are preparing young people for the workforce, they may reveal a deeper issue. "Maybe today the skills that are most needed in the workplace are people who understand technology," says Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. He tells KTRH that the hottest fields for graduates right now don't necessarily require critical thinking skills. "Anything to do with engineering, math, computer science," he says. "Those are highly sought after, they're the highest paid positions."
Regardless of what skills college graduates possess, Challenger believes the degree itself is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts. "A college degree is still a great signal to employers that you're willing to put in work, that you've taken the time and you think it's valuable to get through that degree process, and that you're able to learn going forward," he says.
The statistics also show that having a degree is still a strong indicator of future earning potential. "The average rate of unemployment for people with college degrees is about 2.5 percent, while for the broader population it's about 4.4 percent," says Challenger. "So it's nearly double the unemployment rate for people without college degrees."