How to make a stronger case for the ROI of a college degree

93% of employers stated soft skills play a critical role in their decision about whom they want to hire.
Guillermo Elizondo
Guillermo Elizondo
Guillermo Elizondo is the co-founder and CEO of Territorium, a global education technology company that makes learning and skills acquisition more accessible and measurable.

It’s more important than ever for institutions to provide the ROI for why today’s students should pursue a college degree. One of the signs of an ongoing crisis is that undergraduate enrollment across the U.S. dropped 4.7% this spring—that’s 662,000 students—compared to the previous year.

Student loan debt continues to reach historical numbers—with the average student debt for federal loans stuck at $37,358. Young adults are struggling with the feeling that they will never see a return on their investment. Simply put, going to college is not just a given for all students, even for those who wish to pursue their education.

During these turbulent times, higher education institutions need to find ways to ensure that current and prospective students continue to see the ROI value in degree programs. They should persuade candidates that there is a return on their investment beyond just obtaining a degree, especially given that 84% of grads classified their job search as being ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ difficult. Additionally, it’s estimated that only 38% of grads who studied liberal arts, humanities, or foreign languages are employed in their respective fields.

Gen-Z ROI: More skills-based learning

Gen Z teens are looking for shorter, more affordable, career-connected education pathways, according to the most recent Question The Quo survey by the nonprofit ECMC Group. Of the 5,300 students surveyed, 81% said learning the skills they need to be successful is an important factor in their decision about education after high school.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation, the workforce is evolving. We are seeing employers seeking candidates with skills that align with the workplace—the ability to be a leader, problem solve, and collaborate, among many others. We are no longer in an era where employers want to see just a college degree to determine employability.

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In fact, 93% of employers stated soft skills play a critical role in their decision about whom they want to hire, according to ZipRecruiter’s recent report, “The Class of 2022: The Job Market Outlook for Grads.” As employers continue to seek candidates with soft skills, in addition to educational qualifications, we must offer a way for individuals to share evidence of what they know, understand the skills they possess and how they align with the career path they wish to pursue. This is where comprehensive learner records and learner employment records come into play.

Tracking skills and competencies through learner records

Throughout a student’s journey, they will build various skills inside and outside of the classroom—whether it’s gaining leadership skills from their role as class president or communication skills as a result of volunteering in the community. However, as students continue their education, they often forget about the work they’ve done in the past or simply do not recognize that those skills can be useful when trying to obtain employment.

Comprehensive learner records and learner employment records provide a foundation to track those skills. These technology-driven tools offer a way to track competencies gained and provide an understanding of how they align with students’ goals—whether they’re entering the workforce for the first time or switching jobs.

These digital records provide individuals with a student-owned, skills-based transcript to show potential employers when looking to start or enhance their careers. For students that are unsure of what’s next in their journey, these tools offer insights into industries and job titles that align with the skills they already have and provide feedback on areas in which individuals can improve in order to successfully obtain employment.

As the workforce continues to evolve and the financial burden of attending college continues to increase, institutions are faced with the responsibility of providing additional ROI evidence that shows what a student will learn and be able to offer future employers. Giving access to these types of tools helps to assure potential students that they will earn more than just a degree and guide their understanding of education pathways and work-experience requirements.

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