How to sell a liberal arts college education to more career-minded prospective students

May 26th, 2011 Karine Joly 3 Comments

You’ve probably heard about “Is College Worth It?,” the latest study conducted by the Pew Research Center released on May 15, 2011. The study conducted in partnership with The Chronicle of Higher Education aimed at evaluating the sentiment about higher education and its value among the general population and college presidents.

As you might have already noticed, some results aren’t pretty:

  • 57% of Americans say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend.
  • 57% of adults ages 18 to 34 who are not in school and do not have a bachelor’s degree say they prefer to work and make money instead of getting a college education
  • 48% say they can’t afford to go to college

Fortunately, other results paint a brighter picture – namely, the link between a college education and a more fullfilling career and/or a bigger pay check:

  • Adults who graduated from a four-year college believe that, on average, they are earning $20,000 more a year as a result of having gotten that degree (in this case, perception is actually very close to reality with the average being at $19,550 in 2010 according to the US Census Bureau)
  • 55% of the college graduates say it was very useful in helping them prepare for a job or career.

In these tough econonic times, more and more institutions need to convince (or let’s say reassure) the main stakeholders that a college education will help students get a great career and a well-paid job worth the investment in time and money.

Colgate University has chosen to do with a new website called “Success After Colgate”.

The goal of this website is to make the case to prospective students and their parents that a liberal arts college education can lead to great careers.

This is achieved by showcasing the careers of real alums who majored in a specific discipline. Once a prospective student (or parent) selects a major, s/he gets a list of 12 alums with this major, the listings showcasing their current job and graduation year.

Tim O’Keeffe, Director of web content at Colgate, explained in the email exchange we had about this microsite that these results were selected from the alum database by the admissions office to reflect a large variety of career paths for each major.

The site also features:

  • a delicious feed of links with the latest stories on alums
  • some general facts and stats on Colgate alums
  • a Google map with all the 2011 graduates major and hometown
  • video interviews of a selection of 2011 graduates – providing even more useful and engaging feedback on what they got out of their Colgate education. If you have time, watch the video from the triplets who graduated this year.

I really like this site and would love to hear what you think about it.
Does YOUR institution use stories from alums and graduates to make its pitch to prospective students?

3 Responses

  1. This is an ongoing challenge for those of us who work in liberal arts colleges and universities. Karine, thank you for sharing the Colgate feature which I think does a great job of presenting compelling facts. Nicely done!

    For the good of the cause (and discussion), here is “Liberal Arts @ Work” from William & Mary. We are currently featuring this prominently on our home page.

  2. Great post! Lebanon Valley College’s president recently defended the value of a college education on a local television network after the Pew report was released. We have been reinforcing the value of a degree with our “Alumni Profile” project, in which grads are featured in a spotlight section of every academic department’s website.

  3. Alex Aguilar says:

    Interesting infographics in that site. Hopefully this will go some ways in changing the prevalent (and misguided) attitude that a liberal arts education is good only for getting a career slinging lattes at Starbucks.

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