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Employers say college students should acquire liberal arts knowledge

04/09/2013

Miami University is one of three universities in Ohio joining a new national initiative called the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact, which will showcase employer support for the goals and outcomes of a broad liberal education and to show how higher education is helping students connect college learning with work, citizenship and global challenges. The program is being announced April 10 in Washington, D.C.

The compact developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and participating employers involves the two groups working together through 2014.

Miami President David Hodge is a member of a leadership group within AAC&U called the LEAP Presidents’ Trust.

Presidents’ Trust members and employers who work with them are the initial signatories to this initiative. Miami’s employer partners include PNC Bank, Columbia Gas of Ohio and Coyote Logistics.

Partners pledge to underscore the economic value of liberal education and to provide students with more hands-on learning opportunities to connect their campus learning with real-world contexts and problems.

Also on April 10, AAC&U is releasing a report, “It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success,” summarizing the findings of a national survey of business and nonprofit employers.

Among other things, the survey reveals that, after reading a definition, 74 percent of business and nonprofit leaders say they would recommend a 21st century liberal education to a young person they know in order to prepare for long-term professional success in today’s global economy. (Other highlights of the survey are in the accompanying box.)

More than 250 college presidents, business and nonprofit leaders have signed on to the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact. They have pledged to work together to ensure that all college students — including those attending two-year and four-year, public and private institutions — have access to a high quality liberal education that prepares them successfully for work, life and citizenship.

Signers of the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact have committed to:

1) Helping Americans understand the rising demands of a global workplace and the need for every student to acquire liberal education outcomes;

2) Ensuring that all college students have access to experiences that help them develop the broad knowledge and intellectual skills needed for success;

3) Expanding and supporting new designs for hands-on learning, including such things as senior projects, undergraduate research and internships;

4) Advancing the dual mission for American higher education to prepare students both for successful careers and for civic responsibility;

5) Documenting progress in helping all students achieve key learning outcomes, including their ability to apply learning to complex problems.

For a full report of the complete findings from the 2013 survey of business and non-profit leaders, see: www.aacu.org.

In the AAC&U survey

• 93 percent of employers said, “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”

• More than 75 percent of those surveyed say they want more emphasis on five key areas including: critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.

• 80 percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.

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