In light of the expenditures faced by parents and students, the College Board report pointed out an important fact. When students take longer than two years to earn an associate degree or more than four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, there are financial implications for the future, whereby students forgo earnings from reduced participation in the labor force. Consider:
- The more quickly students earn their degrees, the more time they have to earn college-level wages and reap the financial benefits of post-secondary education. According to the US Census Bureau, bachelor’s degree recipients between age 25 and 34 had median earnings that were 69% (US$18,876) higher than those with high school diplomas in 2015.
- However, according to a 2013 study, many young adults experience a delay in the “on-ramp” from education to full-time career and family formation. The age at which young adults reach the median wage level has jumped from 26 to 30. Making the move to a decent job is difficult for many millennials, who represent 40% of the unemployed population in the US. This group faces higher tuition and student loan debt, as well as stiffer competition for employment. Part of the problem is the perceived gap between education and job readiness.
Another factor involves the expectation of life-long learning and a continuous upgrading of skills necessary to adapt to new workplace technologies, both trends that have replaced the traditional on-the-job learning process. In the 2013 study, the author holds that organisations should consider streamlining curricula to promote college affordability, degree completion, and acquisition of competencies that have labour market value for employers.
A two-year study discussed the so-called skills gap and what managers desire in an employee. When considering a composite “ideal,” the employers in the study envisioned “a hard-working individual with appropriate technical training (knowledge as well as the ability to apply technical information), solid problem-solving skills, and the abilities to communicate well, work in teams, and to continually learn new things.” The competencies they desire are not discrete skills but part of a larger whole that comprise “a person’s habits of thinking, behaving, and problem-solving.”