Even Before the Global Pandemic, College Career Centers Faced Big Challenges

College Career Centers are understaffed, underfunded, underutilized.


Even before the current global pandemic caused havoc across the economy including higher education, college career centers faced big challenges (read "How the Financial Impact of the Pandemic May Affect College Career Centers") that impact the students they serve.


Everyone agrees-- students, parents and the U.S. population at large agree that the purpose of going to college is to get a good job after graduation. While higher education offers an implicit promise to help their graduates land that good job after graduation, many colleges are not fulfilling that promise to all students.


While college career centers should play a large role in fulfilling that promise, they are understaffed, underfunded, underutilized, and ineffective for many students.


Understaffed - 2,917 students to 1 career center staff person

Career centers serve a critical role for students as they explore their professional interests, seek internships, and ultimately search for full-time opportunities after graduation. One challenge is that the median career center employs only 4 full-time equivalent staff members (3 professional staff and 1 clerical support staff). On average, the staff spends about 55% of their time in student-facing work.


And this is the most alarming statistic. . . the ratio of students to career center staff is 2,917 to 1. Career centers are drastically understaffed and do not have enough staff to fully support the students they serve.


Underfunded - $5.49 per student

Even before the current financial impact of the pandemic, the median operating budget in 2017 was $35,000. According to the U.S. News and World Report database of 1,200+ institutions, the average number of undergraduates per institution is 6,365 students. Using this data, the estimated average operating budget for college career centers is $5.49 per student. Career centers can only do so much with their limited budgets.


Underutilized - 39% never visit their career center

Nearly four in 10 students never visited their career services office or used online career resources, including more than one-third of seniors. Overall, 39% of US college students (35% of college seniors) report that they never visited their career center, and 19% report that they visited their career center one time.


Ineffective - 61% say the career center is never or rarely effective

In a survey of more than 4,000 students, 61% say their career center is either never or rarely effective at helping them land a job and 57% say the same about the career center's support in helping them figure out a career path. Almost one-third (29%) of career centers are either never or rarely willing to connect students and alumni for networking.


While some colleges and universities are making great strides in transforming their career services offerings, many college students must navigate the transition from college to career with little or no support.


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