Kansas University commencement exercises are two months away, on Sunday, May 19. It would be interesting to know what percentage of the graduates have jobs lined up that tie in with their studies at the university.
A substantial number of the men and women may be considering graduate studies, and there will be those who choose to enter one of the nation’s military branches.
But how about the rest of them — the majority who spent four years on Mount Oread taking advantage of the many services provided by KU to prepare them for rewarding careers following their stroll down Campanile Hill and into Memorial Stadium?
A large number of parents and friends of upcoming graduates probably are asking the same question. Hopefully, the years as a student at KU have been enjoyable, but now it is time to get to work. Granted, a large number of these graduates already are working because they have had to have jobs during their school years to help their families pay the increasing costs of a higher education. Many of the graduates will be leaving the classrooms with a large financial debt.
But, again, the question of what percentage of the graduates, other than those going to graduate school or the military, have a firm commitment for a job after they turn in their robes and mortarboards?
The reason for asking this question is to raise another question: How good a job does the university do or how much emphasis does it place on working with students to find employment after their formal schooling?
It’s one thing for KU to provide a stimulating academic environment for young men and women, but shouldn’t there also be a desire to do what the school can to find jobs for its graduates? Or do some believe the school’s job is done once a student receives his or her degree, after which the student is on his own? With the university’s message being merely “good luck!”
How much attention is given to counseling, working with students about their career goals, discussing the pros and cons of various business or career fields, helping students develop ties with potential employers and setting up interviews?
Shouldn’t there be some correlation between teaching and inspiring students and the success of these students in finding meaningful employment in fields related to their studies?
Alumni and friends of the university, faculty members, administrators, parents, students, members of the Kansas Board of Regents and the lawmakers who determine the level of public funding for state-aided schools all pay attention to various university rankings. The annual U.S. News & World Report rankings cause considerable discussion, pro and con, particularly when KU and its schools do not measure up well with their peer institutions.
In one recent case, a KU school did not score as high as it should have in the magazine’s rankings because graduates of that particular school did not have a good record of employment a year or so after graduating. A new dean took immediate action and replaced the individual who was supposed to be working with students to develop contacts with potential employers.
At the KU School of Business, there is an excellent team approach to maximize a student’s experience in the classroom along with a well-designed plan in career services to maximize each student’s opportunities to get a good job. This program starts the first semester a student enters the business school and continues through graduation. Students are told what is expected and are encouraged to take advantage of study abroad programs. They are counseled on how to tie their interests, skills and academic courses to potential areas of employment that are compatible with their academic work and they are schooled on how to present themselves in job interviews.
Hopefully, this could become a model for other schools within the university.
At a time when state-aided universities are desperate to increase state funding, it would seem logical for lawmakers, taxpayers and regents to look more favorably on fiscal requests from universities with high student retention rates and high graduation numbers and whose graduates are in high demand by various employers.
Schools that get results, both in the classroom and in the work force, are sure to be favored both by state tax dollars and private contributions. It’s a win-win program for all the players — students, faculty members, parents, alumni, friends, the university and the state.
Again, how many students participating in upcoming commencement ceremonies have solid job commitments?
And what could and should be done to improve these numbers?