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Only 35 Percent of College-educated Workers Consider All or Most of What They Learned in College to be Applicable to Their Current Jobs, According to a University of Phoenix Survey

Nearly Three-Quarters of Working Adults Have Education Regrets

PHOENIX, Aug. 2, 2013 — As the skills gap and challenging economy continue to affect the abilities of employers to fill jobs and workers to find suitable employment, emphasis has been placed on more closely aligning college education with the needs of employers. However, a recent University of Phoenix® survey finds that only a quarter (25 percent) of working adults say college education today effectively prepares students for employment in the workforce, with only 10 percent saying it prepares students very effectively. More than one-in-five (22 percent) workers believe that college education does not effectively prepare students for employment.

Does education reflect the workplace?

The survey finds that only slightly more than one-third (35 percent) of working adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education consider all or most of what they learned in college to be applicable to their current jobs.

  • Only seven percent believe all of what they learned in college is applicable.
  • More than one-in-ten (13 percent) feel that none of what they learned is applicable.
  • Fifty-one percent say some of what they learned is applicable.
  • Those with graduate degrees are more likely to make the link, with nearly half (47 percent) saying all or most of what they learned in college is applicable to their current job.

The online survey of more than 1,600 U.S. employed adults was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of University of Phoenix in April 2013.

“The survey suggests the need for higher education to adapt to the needs of the market and prepare students for specific jobs and careers,” said Dr. Sam Sanders, college chair for University of Phoenix School of Business and former human resources executive with more than 20 years of hiring experience. “There is significant progress being made in America to tie curriculum to careers earlier in a student’s education, but there is still a lot of work to be done to prepare college graduates for specific careers and grow a more competitive workforce. University of Phoenix is working closely with employers to help bridge the gap between academic theory and practice and prepare workers to be more immediately effective in their workplaces.”

Education Regrets

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of working adults identify regrets they have regarding their education. The top regret is that they didn’t pursue more education (48 percent). Fifty-eight percent of working adults without bachelor’s degrees regret that they didn’t pursue more education, which is significantly greater than those with bachelor’s degrees (32 percent).

Other regrets include: not learning as much because they didn’t apply themselves (21 percent), not focusing enough on academics (19 percent), selecting the wrong major (15 percent), not pursuing internships or relevant part-/full-time jobs while receiving their education (11 percent) and not applying the information learned to real-life scenarios (six percent).

Pursuing online education

Many adults are augmenting their education through online learning, and this may be one of the ways education is more closely mirroring the workplace.

“The survey found that 90 percent of workers say email is used in their workplace and more than half say that remote teams, instant messaging and web-based meetings are each in use at their workplaces,” said Sanders. “However there is little formal training to help workers engage productively in these channels. This is why you see teams being dysfunctional or emails that are unprofessional. Online learning has the ability to help individuals work more effectively in environments with diverse team members and fewer face-to-face interactions.”

One-third (33 percent) of working adults are pursuing online education or are aware of someone who is, with eight percent reporting that they themselves are doing this and 27 percent saying that they know someone else who is.

  • Young professionals are pursuing online education: Fifteen percent of 18-34 year old working adults are pursuing online education, compared with five percent of 35-44 year olds, six percent of 45-54 year olds and four percent of individuals age 55 or older.
  • Business leaders are pursuing online education: Sixteen percent of business owners and the same percentage of C-level leaders are pursuing online education.

Benefits of online learning

Nearly nine-in-ten (87 percent) working adults say there are benefits to online learning, with the larger majority citing the ability to go to school while working full-time or part-time (78 percent) and the ability to learn from anywhere in the world (63 percent).

  • Twenty-one percent cite the access to more diverse faculty members as a benefit, while 16 percent acknowledge the ability to learn in an environment that mirrors the workplace, which is more reliant on online communication.
  • Fifteen percent identify being in class with students with diverse experiences as a benefit of online learning.
  • Age is not a factor in seeing the benefits of online learning, with 91 percent of workers in their fifties and the same percentage age 60 or older saying there are benefits to online learning.
  • Nearly all (95 percent) C-level leaders see benefits to online education.

University of Phoenix teaches students in small, highly engaging classes online and at campus locations across the country. Whether students choose online courses, campus courses or a combination of both, technology is integrated throughout the programs.

Tips for adults going back to school

Sanders offers the following tips to help working adults get the most out of their educational experiences:

1. Do not wait until you are in a degree program to research careers. Students who start their education programs with their careers in mind often get more out of the experiences. These students choose projects, write papers and participate in class discussions based on their career goals and are able to translate their classwork into actionable items in the workplace. Prospective and current students should research specific positions and career paths, take career and skills assessments and develop learning plans with their academic advisors.

2. Understand and leverage the available resources. The learning experience for students grows more customized each day and students have an array of resources available to help them understand and apply content. Today students can participate in ongoing class discussions from anywhere using a smart phone; tutoring tools provide context as students are doing homework; and textbooks and supplemental materials are available online. Prospective and current students should research and leverage available learning tools as they pursue education.

3. Gain buy-in of key stakeholders. Returning to college is a big decision that not only affects the students, but the stakeholders in their lives. Prospective students should discuss education with key stakeholders including family, friends, co-workers and bosses. If stakeholders feel invested, they can support and help students stay motivated. At work, students can discuss ways they can bring classroom learning into the workplace to benefit all team members and specific projects.

4. Grow time management skills. It is important to designate specific study time each day or week. Successful students often carve out time to touch the classroom each day. Similar to planning for deadlines at work, students should create a success plan by breaking up larger assignments into smaller manageable pieces to avoid being overwhelmed.

To help individuals take control of their career search and management, University of Phoenix has introduced the Phoenix Career Services™ portal, a comprehensive set of career resources and tools. This includes the Career Interest Profiler that assists individuals in discovering how their personal interests can relate to careers; the Job Market Research Tool that helps individuals determine where the jobs are, current and recent salary information and what companies are hiring; and the Career Plan, a personalized roadmap that enables individuals to create a detailed plan for their academic journey.

To learn more about Phoenix Career Services, visit www.phoenix.edu/careerservices, and for more information about University of Phoenix degree programs, visit www.phoenix.edu.

Survey Methodology

This Working Adult survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of University of Phoenix between April 18-26, 2013, among 1,616 U.S. adults age 18 or older who are full-time, part-time, or self-employed. The data include oversamples in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Francisco, and Atlanta. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact tanya.burden@apollogrp.edu.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.

The survey found that 90 percent of workers say email is used in their workplace and more than half say their workplace engages in remote teams (56 percent), instant messaging (56 percent) and web-based meetings (56 percent).

Media Contact: Tanya Burden
University of Phoenix
303-570-0617
tanya.burden@apollogrp.edu

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