MCC Daily Tribune
President's Wednesday Message
Last week, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), which focuses on advocating for the value of the liberal arts in the 21st century, released its latest survey of business executives and hiring managers. The survey on the future of work drew over 1,000 responses and affirms the outstanding work of our faculty in creating and sustaining a broad-based curriculum and our College in focusing on degree completion. Like other recent surveys of the public's and graduates' thoughts about higher education, though, the AAC&U survey results also reflect changing expectations of and for college that should inform curriculum and programs going forward.
AAC&U found that both business executives and hiring managers strongly support the skills and abilities students learn through a liberal arts curriculum. (As the chair of the Community College Humanities Association, I was especially happy to see this finding.) Specifically, the respondents cited the following learning outcomes as most important: oral communication, critical thinking, ethical judgment, working effectively in teams, written communication, and the real-world application of skills and knowledge. These should sound very familiar to MCC students: thanks to the diligence of our faculty, all are found in our curriculum and are fundamental to the quality and excellence of our academic programs. In addition, these outcomes are embedded in MCC's Scholar's Day, which supports mentored student research and prepares our students for transfer by connecting them to the scholarship that is expected of undergraduates at four-year colleges and universities.
The vast majority of those surveyed by AAC&U see a college education as important for employment. In fact, almost 50% of executives and hiring managers viewed it as absolutely essential. MCC is among the top 3% of community colleges nationwide in conferring associate degrees--another marker of our quality. The Schools at MCC are grounded in guided academic pathways designed to increase persistence to and completion of degrees; leading indicators show the Schools are increasing student completion of college-level credits, which should decrease time to degree. Our College has long invested in 2+2 frameworks to promote university transfer, but fewer students are participating in these pathways. In fact, they account for less than 4% of our overall enrollment. More students now transfer to a four-year college prior to completing their degrees. While the ease of this path demonstrates the quality of our curriculum, it needs more attention. Given the importance of a college credential to employment, we would be wise to track the success of our transfer students beyond MCC, including such measures as credits accepted by transfer institutions and persistence to degree. We may also want to increase agreements that allow MCC to award degrees based on credits earned at transfer institutions.
Some of the AAC&U survey results, however, are less positive and echo growing concerns from the public and other stakeholders that colleges must do more to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Only about a third of responding executives and hiring managers felt that recent graduates were well prepared to apply the knowledge and skills learned in college to real world settings. This may be why well over 90% of both groups felt that internships and apprenticeships were important in hiring decisions. MCC's curriculum in some programs has long been connected to field work, internships, and apprenticeships. Still more classes across the curriculum connect students with service learning, and the new Center for Outreach and Volunteer Engagement (COVE) will promote even greater impact. Building on MCC's long commitment to the value of liberal arts education, the recently launched Humanities Institute will provide students with the opportunity to connect classroom learning to issues in Rochester's past and present, and design solutions for the future. As the importance of internships and apprenticeships grows, though, we must focus on providing students with more formalized and transcripted/documented opportunities for these experiences in every academic program.
MCC's commitment to academic excellence has been and will continue to be at the center of our students' experience. The AAC&U survey underscores the quality and value of our current curriculum and suggests directions for the future of the liberal arts. What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments on the blog.
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