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Continuing Education Fills Holes in Job Market

The sky-high costs of higher education look all the more scandalous when you consider that few graduates are better prepared for the workforce than they were when they first enrolled in school. Some colleges, at least, are belatedly taking steps to change this. The New York Times describes how some have begun to tailor their continuing-education programs toward potential job openings in their area rather than offering a fixed set of courses and hoping that students will choose to attend.

It’s amazing that it took so long for this to happen. Students facing a hyper-competitive job market aren’t likely to pursue an expensive education for mere personal enrichment; they are increasingly attracted to programs that will make them more useful. Continuing-education programs’ sole purpose is to prepare students for jobs, and it’s good to see that administrators are more nimbly responding to employers’ demands, especially with many businesses complaining of a lack of skilled applicants for many positions. This is an attitude more colleges will need to adopt to remain relevant in the 21st century.

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  • Peter Thomas

    Fair point but it does raise the perennial question concerning the purpose of higher education (see the recent publication by Stefan Collini). If it is solely about training people for employment, what does that do for the broader civic culture – some would argue that it is being debased through increasing marketization. There is already a collapsing of the work/private divide. All this suggests that we are increasingly defined by employment, productivity, consumption. As your critique of the blue model suggests, perhaps it is time for a broader rethinking about the social contract. I didn’t consent to a life of indebtedness, declining relative prosperity, invasive work and increased job insecurity but feel like I have no choice. Surely, humanity can do better than this.

    That said, the sky-high costs of higher education in this country are scandalous but is that not an function of the economic model + a reflection of the inequality that allows some in society to afford it?

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