Monthly Archives: September 2009

Crossing the Finish Line

A book by William Bowen, Matthew Chingos and Michael McPherson entitled, “Crossing the Finish Line” examines degree attainment at America’s public universities. The authors assembled and explored a large new database on variables affecting college completion at America’s state universities and in four state university systems. The book presents surprising and important results including the role of high school grades vs. SAT/ACT scores in predicting degree completion; the extent to which minority and low-income students enroll in institutions that are matched to their academic abilities; and when students are most likely to drop out of college. The New York Times has a good write up on it as well.

Federal Hispanic Career Summit

With the selection of Hilda Solis at the Department of Labor and Ken Salazar at the Department of Interior, Hispanics comprise 13% of President Obama’s cabinet. While these selections represent progress at the highest levels of the Federal government, you might be surprised to learn that Hispanics represent only 7.9% of the federal workforce as compared to 13.2% of the civilian workforce. The gap between the Hispanic representation in the federal sector and Hispanics in the general workforce has widened. In fact, the gap has almost doubled in the last ten years (3% in 1988 and 5.3% in 2008). This problem is exacerbated by the high separation rate of Hispanics—which negates much or all of the gains made in their recruitment.

To address this issue, the Second Annual Federal Hispanic Career Advancement Summit will be held on September 17 in Arlington, Virginia. The summit will offer workshops ranging from effective communication skills to strategies for building coalitions. On top of providing information to enhance the advancement of the talent needed to meet the challenges of the new millennium, the summit also provides an opportunity to network and develop professional relationships.

List vs. List

I usually don’t put too much stock in “lists” of any type since the selection criteria is usually very subjective and the results can be skewed by popularity rather than objective data. Business Week just released its “list” of Top 10 Employers for College Graduates. The Business Week list is based on three criteria: a survey of career center directors, survey information from the companies, and college graduate surveys.

1. Walt Disney 
2.  Lockheed Martin 
3. Deloitte & Touche 
4. Goldman, Sachs 
5.  Enterprise Rent-A-Car 
6.  U.S. Department of State 
7.  Raytheon 
8.  General Electric
9.  JPMorgan Investment Bank 
10 Abbott Laboratories 

Now take a look at a similar list compiled by Hispanic Business Magazine measuring an organizations commitment to Hispanics in the workplace. This list is based on an in-depth analysis of 30 critical statistics, examining how companies reach Hispanics in recruitment, promotion, retention, procurement, community support, and consumer marketing.   Quite a different list.

1. McDonalds
2. Bank of America
3. SBC Communications
4. Washington Mutual
5. Verizon
6. Sodexho
7. Wells Fargo
8. Darden Restaurants
9. Citigroup
10. Marriott

2009 College Grad Salary Snapshot

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) salary survey, recent college graduates saw fewer job offers and also took salary hits. Those who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in 2009 received a $48,633 average starting salary offer, down 1.2% from last year, according to a survey of college and university career services offices. This contrasts 2008 when the average starting salary was 7.6% higher than those offered to the class of 2007. Engineering and computer science graduates still fared the best in 2009 and saw increases in their average starting salaries. Average offers fell among business and liberal arts graduates.

Miscelleneous Trends

College classes for $99 a month? The Washington Monthly has an intriguing profile on Burck Smith, an Internet entrepreneur who is attempting to change the DNA of higher education. Rather than students being tethered to ivy-covered quads or an anonymous commuter campus, Smith envisions a world where they can seamlessly assemble credits and degrees from multiple online providers, each specializing in certain subjects and—most importantly—fiercely competing on price. An interesting perspective which is reminiscent of how online education changed the way students obtain a college education.

Leveraging functionalities in tough economic times is not limited to Corporate America. Columbia College provides an example of how colleges and universities are restructuring some of their career center, job search, and career counseling functions. Having worked in this type of setup for a few years, I’m not sure how successful it will be in the long run.

Finally, since college graduates are having some challenges finding traditional careers after graduation, here are some alternative career ideas for college graduates.

A CEO Makes a Good Pitch

The CEO of Olympus of America makes a strong pitch for effective college recruitment programs and the on-boarding process. A good reminder for organizations in today’s work environment. Historically, college recruitment has been seen from the perspective of the organization. That is, individuals have been seen in terms of how they will fit into an organization, what skills and abilities they bring, and how they will be trained. More research has to done that considers the process from the dual perspective of the organization and the individual. While the traditional view of organizational recruitment is that an individual’s abilities should meet the organization’s job requirements resulting in good job performance, a more expansive view is considering the needs of the individual and the organizational capacity to reinforce those needs resulting in job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.

College Guide – A Different View

As an alternative to U.S. News & World Report’s much-criticized college rankings, the Washington Monthly magazine has just released its own annual College Guide and Rankings. Whereas U.S. News relies on basic and easily manipulated measures of money and prestige, like alumni giving rates and a vague reputational survey, the Washington Monthly ranks schools based on their contributions to society.

The Washington Monthly’s approach provides noticeably different results – some highlights:

  • Some of the top universities on the Washington Monthly list, like South Carolina State (#6) and Jackson State (#22), are non-elite “red state” schools buried in the lowest tiers of the U.S. News list.
  • Women’s liberal arts colleges score well in the Washington Monthly rankings, with Mount Holyoke, Smith, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley all in the top 10. Historically black institutions, such as Spelman and Morehouse, also make strong showings.
  • While all the top 20 U.S. News universities are private, 13 of the top 20 Washington Monthly universities are public.

To compile the list, the Washington Monthly’s editors gathered publicly available data while U.S. News relies on universities to report data. The Washington Monthly list is based on three criteria: social mobility, research and service. America’s best colleges, the editors reasoned, are those that produce new scientific discoveries and highly trained PhDs, help economically disadvantaged students earn degrees, and emphasize the obligations students have to serve their communities and the nation at large. Below is a snapshot of the list, but you can browse and manipulate the complete list here.

STEMMING the Future

My postings to this blog have often highlighted one of the major socio-technological changes in the United States – the growing diversity of the workforce. Census and demographic data demonstrate the “traditional” pool that supplies today’s technological workforce is shrinking, while untraditional pools such as underrepresented minorities and women groups are growing proportionally, with them making up 1/2 to 2/3 of the population, the new majority, of the United States. If the United States is to maintain remain competitive and continue to compete in the global marketplace, it must draw on all of the talents in its population. The need for a highly skilled technical labor force, the new majority, and the aging population are several factors that drive the need for a comprehensive look at changing the culture of engineering. 

In academic year 2002-03, Latino STEM graduates accounted for 6 percent of all graduates at the bachelor’s level, one percent at the master’s level, and 2 percent (544) at the doctoral level. The unachieved potential of Hispanic and women students in the STEM fields is significant and is critical to harness for the economic future of the United States. To realize this potential will require the support and commitment of the corporate community as well as government, nonprofits, non-governmental organizations, and educational institutions.

David Bressoud, a professor of Mathematics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and others are doing their part by appearing before Congressional Diversity and Innovation Caucus to make a presentation on “Diversity and the Future of STEM: Filling the Undergraduate Mathematics Education Pipeline.” Dr. Bressoud will be making the case that women, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans are being lost in the undergraduate mathematics education pipeline. He provides an excellent overview of the situation with regard to women. Next month, Dr. Bressoud will share the data uncovered on minority representation in undergraduate mathematics.

Source: National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, Arlington, VA: Available on the internet <>