Higher Education’s Gift That Keeps Giving

“Welcome to the Exit Era of higher education,” said Brandon Busteed of Gallup Education as he revealed findings from the third annual Gallup-Purdue Index. He sees families in the marketplace shifting their focus from simply getting into college to considering how a college will help them successfully transition to life after graduation. Notably, the Gallup study found that graduates who consider their college’s career services office to have been very helpful were:

  • 5.8 times more likely to say their college prepared them well for life outside of college
  • 3.4 times more likely to recommend their college to others
  • nearly three times more likely to say their education was worth the cost
  • 2.6 times more likely to have donated to their college in the past 12 months

However, only 17% of graduates report that their career services office was very helpful. And graduates who were first-generation or transfer students were less likely to have even utilized career services in the first place.

Considering demographic data from the newly updated WICHE projections—which point to a plateauing and eventual decline of high school graduates—first-generation and transfer students can be expected to become more important target markets in colleges’ recruitment efforts as the supply of high school graduates stagnates. Even now, the latest tuition study from Moody’s Investors Service indicates “fierce competition for students” among private institutions based on freshman discount rates that continue to rise. And the newly released Chronicle survey of small colleges and midsize public universities found that only a third of private institutions achieved both their enrollment and their tuition-revenue goals for Fall 2016, which was a new low.

Put all of this together, and it means that if an institution can authentically tout the enduring impact of the educational experience it provides thanks to its dedicated efforts to prepare students for and transition them to post-graduate success, then that institution has a competitive advantage in a marketplace that is increasingly paying attention to such results.


Gallup-Purdue Index

Interestingly, utilization and ratings of career services do not vary by size or control (public vs. private) of institution. (Gallup)

WICHE Projections

After a 30% increase during the 18 years before 2013, the number of high school graduates will not grow through 2023. (WICHE)

Moody’s Report

An increasingly competitive landscape and continued focus on affordability will contribute to weaker net tuition gains. (Moody’s)


Lawlor Recommends

December is always a month of reflection, thinking about the past year and what’s to come in the year ahead. What is obvious is that the value propositions of individual colleges are being scrutinized and compared by students and families who are looking for realistic evidence of a worthwhile educational investment. They are telling you they want learning experiences that produce desired outcomes long after graduation. If your institution doesn’t have this to give, then focus on product development. But if your institution can deliver, then broaden awareness about it.

No matter what, we hope that in this holiday season you’ll take joy in remembering that to work in higher education means you are engaged in delivering a gift that keeps on giving. A portion of every student’s college education is gifted (even the full tuition price doesn’t cover the full cost of delivery), and the results of a college education truly are lasting and transformative. Thank you for sharing your gifts with others. Best wishes in 2017.