By directly tying degree programs with today’s marketplace demands, universities can better serve underrepresented students.
Our nation’s economy relies heavily on the preparedness of its work force. Higher education has a responsibility to enable individuals to become contributing members of society. Today, minority students need and place great value on the effectiveness with which institutions of higher learning help prepare them for an increasingly competitive marketplace. In addition, they seek environments that fit their unique lifestyles. More important, how quickly one can expect to see a return on his/her educational investment has become a critical factor in choosing a college or university.
At DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management, our priority is offering career-focused associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. We believe it is our duty not only to educate our students, but to prepare them adequately for their future careers. Our success in graduating and assisting students with achieving employment in their desired fields differentiates DeVry University from the vast and growing landscape of postsecondary institutions. In fact, since 1975, 90 percent of graduates from DeVry’s undergraduate programs who were in the active job market have been employed in their field of study within six months after graduation.
DeVry’s mission appears to have been embraced by minorities as students of color composed approximately half of our fall 2007 undergraduate student population. We are often asked, “What does De- Vry University do differently to achieve such success with minority and nontraditional student populations?”
Foremost, we have placed a significant emphasis on becoming familiar with the unique needs of this population. It’s likely that such students may be older than most traditional college students, they most likely work full time or, at least, part time, and many have families to support. Understanding these unique needs is vital in communicating with and accommodating this population. Therefore, such students require special and attractive options, including flexible scheduling, online course offerings, and accelerated programs enabling them to earn a traditional four-year degree in three years or less.
In meeting these special needs, we believe DeVry University excels at three core competencies that make us a compelling and attractive option within this unique student population.
First, DeVry University’s approach to education is simple and clear. Every bachelor’s and master’s degree program we offer is tied directly to an in-demand career, such as accounting, computer engineering and information technology. Currently, our alumni from all undergraduate degree programs system-wide are starting out with average salaries of $44,000.
Universities shouldn’t try to dictate to the marketplace. At DeVry, we work with our existing industry contacts and constantly ask employers, “What skills and attributes do you want in your new hires?” We listen very carefully to their feedback and redesign our curriculum from the ground-up every five or six years to keep up with the industry’s needs. As a result, students come out of our programs more marketable and career-ready.
In addition, DeVry University offers students a flexible education that fits with their lives instead of requiring students to re-arrange their responsibilities. This flexibility is facilitated largely by offering course work both onsite and online.
It’s not just the degree programs we offer that contribute to our graduation and employment success. A second area is in DeVry University’s approach to education. We place emphasis on improving learning by incorporating theory plus application. In short, students learn by doing. We recognize that everyone has the capacity to learn — despite cultural, age, or even past academic obstacles. To that point, DeVry University consistently ranks among the top institutions granting degrees to Black, Hispanic and Asian students.
Lastly, one of the most critical factors to DeVry University’s success has been our dedicated Career Services program that connects graduates with employers. Our practitioner-oriented faculty is well connected and constantly working with Career Services in order to give them leads on companies that are hiring. We offer life-time career services assistance to our alumni.
Now, more than ever, higher education is not only just about academia. The rising cost of college education has prompted a growing number of students and their parents to ask, “What am I getting in return for my hard-earned tuition dollars?” Higher education is also about the career that education will bring. This is why, in order to recruit, retain and graduate minorities and nontraditional students, universities should go beyond education and make sure their graduates are career-ready. New graduates should not be asking themselves, “What now?” but rather be able to confidently state, “I’m ready!”
— David J. Pauldine is president of DeVry University
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