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Education

Colleges Would Do Students (and Themselves) a Favor by Adding Certificate Programs

Many college graduates have trouble finding a job that pays well enough for them to cover their student-loan payments. Often, they find out that their bachelor’s degrees have left them poorly equipped to deal with the realities of the labor market — generic degrees don’t get you very far these days.

What they need, embedded in their degrees, are certificate programs focused on particular skills. So argues Lawrence Peterson, dean emeritus at Kennesaw State in Georgia in today’s Martin Center article. 

Peterson asks, “So why aren’t colleges offering courses that teach students the skills employers want? The answers lie with university faculty who make course and curriculum decisions. Without industry experience, faculty cannot teach workplace skills.”

He’s right. Most academics have no experience in the business world.  In fact, many of them are rather hostile to it. Business smacks of profit-seeking, competition, and other deplorable traits.

What does Peterson have in mind? He explains:

Certificate programs are packages of four or more courses focused on specific employers’ needs that teach students in-demand skills. Colleges could also mandate an industry internship as part of a certificate program, so students gain relevant working experience. Many of those courses will require adjunct faculty who actively work in the business world. Academics seldom have the experience or the industry perspective needed to teach those more practical courses, as they connect theory with real-world application.

At Kennesaw State, one successful certificate program was set up for biology students: Regulatory Affairs and Clinical Trials. Peterson gives other instances as well.

He concludes:

Many previous examples focus on STEM disciplines, but certificates can enhance other degree programs. By embedding such programs within arts, humanities, and business degrees, universities become more relevant, and college degrees can be more valuable to graduates and employers.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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