Why some degrees may be worthless

Sept. 3, 2013

Many of us who have been in the corporate world for awhile have encountered  a situation or two like this: You run into recent grads who don't seem to actually know much about subjects they were supposed to have mastered in school.

Now, management consultant Bob Lewis has provided some insight on this conundrum in one of his recent Keep the Joint Running posts: "Once upon a time," says Lewis, "I taught an IT-related topic in a local university’s graduate program. I awarded A’s to those students who excelled, B’s to those who did well, C’s to those who achieved a basic level of understanding, and D’s to everyone worse.

The Dean asked me to change my grading. Why? Most of the program’s students were eligible for tuition reimbursement from their employers, but only if they maintained a B average. The school’s revenue depended on lax standards."

Lewis further laments that a similar phenomenon is at work in more and more educational institutions simply because graduation rates are increasingly considered a measure of a school's "worthiness."

"The target graduation rate for colleges and universities seems to be around 90%," says Lewis. "For contrast, the U.S. Air Force Academy only passes 75% or so, which makes sense once you figure whoever passes might be the one you rely on to shoot down the enemy plane shooting at you."

The result: Good pilots. But from other institutions, graduates who are ill prepared in subjects they supposedly have mastered.

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