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Americans believe a Google internship is more valuable than a Harvard degree

There are ‘very few believers in the work readiness of college graduates’

Once you get into Harvard University, do you actually learn anything that is useful in the real world, or do you just emerge with a fancy credential?

According to a December survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by Kaplan and conducted by QuestResearch Group, far more Americans think an internship with Google is more valuable (60 percent) than a Harvard degree (40 percent) for high school graduates.

Brandon Busteed, president of university partners at Kaplan, analyzes the survey results in a post at Forbes. The percentages are closer when parents are asked what they’d prefer for their own child, but even then Google (52 percent) has the advantage over Harvard (48 percent).

A mid-November survey that asked a slightly different question was even more strongly in favor of the internship (68 percent): “If you had $50,000 to invest in helping your child get a good job, how would you rather spend it?”

Busteed notes that “it suggests many parents are willing to invest in an internship experience”:

This opens a whole new dimension to the talent development marketplace where one can imagine a world where employers and education partners team up to provide tuition-based internship programs. …

It’s an opportunity to create an innovative fusion between education and work where higher education remains relevant but in very different forms. It’s an opportunity for colleges and universities to go beyond the accredited degree model and expand into the rapidly growing space of non-degree, certificate and certification training. And it opens the possibility of new partnership models between employers and universities that produce interesting variants of apprenticeships, co-ops, and internships.

The problem for higher education, even the most elite institutions, is that there are “very few believers in the work readiness of college graduates,” Busteed says.

Just 6 percent of college trustees “strongly” agree that graduates are ready for work, even fewer than C-level executives (11 percent) and U.S. adults (13 percent). The current generation of college students is also “the least working in U.S. history,” he says.

Colleges can either ignore these views and hope the “public opinion cycle” swings back in their direction, or “view it as a mandate” to provide a “life-long education and training in various forms” for an economy where an internship is valued more than a degree.

Read the essay.

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