Business Leaders Doubt U.S. Colleges Prepare Students

Posted on

February 26, 2014

Many Business Leaders Doubt U.S. Colleges Prepare Students

Few leaders believe U.S. colleges and universities are the best

by Preety Sidhu and Valerie J. Calderon

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Business leaders have doubts that higher education institutions in the U.S. are graduating students who meet their particular businesses’ needs. More than one-third of business leaders agree with the statement “higher education institutions in this country are graduating students with the skills and competences that my business needs.” About a third disagree with this statement — including 17% who strongly disagree — while another third is neutral.

022614 doubts higher ed

These findings are from a Nov. 25-Dec. 16, 2013, telephone survey with 623 U.S. business leaders that Gallup conducted on behalf of Lumina Foundation. The sample for the business leader study is nationally representative of businesses in the U.S., with minimum quotas by sales revenue. The study gauges business leaders’ perceptions of higher education in this country. The business leader poll was conducted concurrently with the third-annual Gallup/Lumina Poll report on Higher Education.

Few Business Leaders Believe U.S. Colleges and Universities Are the Best

When asked to react to two statements about the quality of higher education in the country, 37% of business leaders agree the U.S. has the highest quality college and university system in the world, including 19% who strongly agree. Nearly as many — 32% — disagree.

The perceived deficiencies of the American higher education system, however, do not mean that employers are turning elsewhere when hiring. Slightly more than one in 10 business leaders agree that their business must hire foreign-born workers as a result of a shortage of American workers with necessary skills, including 4% who strongly agree. But 57% strongly disagree with this statement.

022614 doubts higher ed

Although most business leaders disagree that they need to hire foreign-born workers, a majority, 61%, would favor a policy of issuing green cards to foreign-born international students who graduate from U.S. higher education institutions. And 36% would oppose it.

022614 doubts higher ed


There is a disconnect between what business leaders need and what higher education institutions think they are producing. A separate Gallup study for Inside Higher Ed finds that 96% of chief academic officers at higher education institutions say their institution is very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the world of work. Quite the reverse, business leaders say that college graduates do not have the skills that their particular businesses need such as applicable knowledge and applied skills in the field. Even though leaders are not yet turning to foreign-born workers when hiring, they favor increasing green card policies for foreign-born international graduate students in the U.S.

There is clearly room to increase collaboration, with a strong majority of business leaders favoring an increased level of collaboration between higher education institutions and businesses. An increased level ofcollaboration will benefit both business leaders and higher education institutions in preparing students with the right knowledge and applied skills so that they are ready for the real world and have the best opportunity to find a good job.

Many Business Leaders Doubt U.S. Colleges Prepare Students.


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