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For some, going to college is merely a stepping stone on the road to a bigger goal, one that includes a clear career path and the means to achieving long-held dreams. Yet even for this privileged group of students, the high school-to-college transition is filled with insecurity and uncertainty. Add the extenuating circumstances that often plague low-income and minority communities, and it's easy to understand how for some, the route to college or a career is wrought with obstacles.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently published a first-ever national survey on college and university graduate "first-destination/post-graduation' outcomes. The survey based results from 207 member institutions utilizing the same survey methodology, measuring graduate outcomes from both bachelors and associate degree programs. With this new study, NACE hopes to provide a baseline to determine future trends in education and labor.
Under the U.S. Department of Education's new Gainful Employment regulations, graduates of career colleges must exceed specific earnings-to-debt ratios for their institutions to continue to receive federal student aid. One challenge colleges seeking to meet these requirements face is employers are often looking for skills not taught in textbooks. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2015 survey, the skill set most frequently sought by employers screening candidates' resumes is leadership and teamwork.1 And Hart Research Associates found that 93 percent of employers weigh skills in areas such as critical thinking, communication and problem-solving more heavily than an academic major when considering candidates.2 These findings suggest that career colleges should incorporate such job skills into their curriculum to improve their graduates' gainful employment outlooks.
Only 10.9 percent of low-income students who are first in their family to attend college achieve a Bachelor's Degree within six years, according to Pell Institute data.1 This contrasts starkly with 24.1 percent for non-first-generation low-income students and 54 percent for students who are neither first-generation nor low-income. First-generation students face additional obstacles for various reasons, including absence of role models and social support, insufficient academic preparation, lack of specialized academic support, greater financial burdens than other students, and language barriers. Career colleges can help alleviate some of these factors by adopting measures to assist first-generation students.
Starbucks made headlines in early June when the coffee giant announced plans to offer employees full tuition to Arizona State University's online program. The company's current college achievement program already offered two years of undergraduate tuition at ASU, and now baristas can earn a free bachelor's degree.
Career colleges are getting ready for Gainful Employment. As institutional and program effectiveness specialist Amanda Opperman describes, schools will soon be required to submit an avalanche of student data for the years 2008 to 2015.1 But this is just preliminary to the larger task of achieving compliance with minimum requirements for student loan repayment rates and debt-to-income ratios. Facing this challenge will require implementing effective strategies to ensure that institutional performance is in compliance with Gainful Employment standards.
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In 2014, our nation's high school graduation rate topped 80 percent for the first time in U.S. history.1 Hispanic/Latino students were the subgroups with the greatest improvements in graduation rates. Between 2006 and 2012, the graduation rates of Latino students grew 15 percentage points. This fast-growing student population also increased 4.2 percentage points from 2011 to 2013 in Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) reporting, according to "Building a Nation, Executive Brief: Overview of 2012-13 High School Graduation Rates."
Through the juvenile courts and the adult criminal justice system, the United States incarcerates more of its youth than any other country in the world. In 2013, 54,148 juveniles were incarcerated in youth detention facilities alone and approximately 500,000 youth are brought to detention centers in a given year.1  The consequences of this dynamic includes the phenomenon of "peer delinquency training," and results in greater levels of substance abuse, school difficulties, violence, and adjustment difficulties to adulthood.2 These dynamics are also a primary cause of the so called "dropout-to-prison pipeline" issue which regrettably proves the high correlation between high school drop rates and youth challenges with the law. This situation is pervasive and depreciates the lives of millions of young Americans, and also ends up costing taxpayers billions of dollars to keep dropouts and disadvantaged populations in prison.
National high school graduation rates are on the rise, according to the 2015 report on Building a Grad Nation, jointly issued by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America's Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.1 After dropping below 75 percent in 2006, the average graduation rate has climbed each year, reaching 80 percent in 2012 and 81.4 percent in 2013. If graduation levels continue to rise at this rate, the GradNation coalition expects it can achieve its goal of a 90 percent on-time high school graduation rate by 2020.
Joining the likes of Starbucks and McDonald's, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that it is going to offer free college tuition to employees at Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Fiat dealerships across the country. Over 118,000 employees can take classes through Strayer University, a private, for-profit college. Chrysler employees can take their classes online or attend classes at one of Strayer's brick-and-mortar campus locations. Employees at dealerships in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee can already enroll in this new program, and the program will continue to roll out in phases until all of the US dealerships are included.

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