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article imageOp-Ed: LinkedIn college rankings amp up debate over purpose of higher ed

By Calvin Wolf     Oct 2, 2014 in Technology
Currently, we obsess over which colleges can help get us a job after graduation...but now LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals, is introducing new college rankings intended to help us find out which colleges can get us WHICH jobs.
Everyone wants a job after college graduation, but so far we only have a general idea of how many graduates from a given college or university get a job. We know percentages, but these are notoriously unreliable. We have long heard of how schools pad their alumni employment statistics by ignoring whether or not these graduates have gotten jobs within their field of study. Basically, a law school graduate with a job at a fast food restaurant is proudly included in the law school's alumni statistics as "employed." Obviously, most prospective law school students do not intend to work in fast food once they have their J.D.s in hand...but many are seduced into attending law school, and taking on thousands of dollars in student loans, by these inflated alumni employment statistics.
Now LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals, intends to clarify things by helping people see graduates from which schools get which jobs - meaning good jobs; jobs specifically within the field of study, reports Inside Higher Ed. Instead of applying to the school with the highest percentage of "employed" alumni, you can now apply to the school with the highest percentage of alumni employed in full-time, salaried, benefited jobs within their field of study.
Some people are thrilled. Others are unhappy. LinkedIn's new rankings amplify the debate over how to assess college performance, swinging the pendulum closer to outcome-based assessments. Traditionalists view higher education as important for its merits and processes, based on how well it teaches students to engage in critical thinking. Many laymen, especially parents, view higher education as important for its results, namely stable employment.
Knowing which schools have a higher probability of helping their graduates land "good" jobs is a powerful tool for college applicants and could be the tool that brings about meaningful reform. Finally, universities will be asked to answer why so few of their graduates can find employment in their field! Knowing that LinkedIn will help measure their outcomes, colleges and universities may finally get real about job placement for graduating seniors.
But is LinkedIn only further overhyping schools we already know are wealthy and well-connected? Critics often think our obsession with ranking colleges and universities leads to "arms races" among elite schools that increase tuition rates and lead to inefficient allocation of resources. Applicants will swarm certain schools and ignore others, leading to some campuses being overcrowded, others barren, and hordes of applicants left without campuses to attend come autumn.
Employers could further exacerbate this situation by actively seeking graduates from LinkedIn's top-ranked schools, assuming that the schools genuinely produce better workers. This creates a harmful self-fulfilling prophecy, turning the diplomas of some schools into "golden tickets" regardless of graduates' merits or skills. Eager to brag that they have more employees from top-ranked schools X, Y, and Z, employers may blindly adhere to LinkedIn rankings, often to their own detriment.
While LinkedIn's college rankings are better than what currently exists, there is still work to be done!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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