Survey: What’s the most important college outcome?

By Laura Devaney, Director of News, @eSN_Laura
April 8th, 2016

college outcome

A university survey polled recent graduates to pinpoint the top college outcome

Recent university graduates said in a survey that the most important college outcome is to secure a job after graduation. However, while 30 percent of surveyed students identified this as their top goal, only 35 percent said colleges are doing “extremely well” in preparing them for a job and career.

Seventy-eight percent of surveyed recent graduates identified “internships or practical experience in college” as the most important factor when it comes to a college outcome and success in a current or future job and career. Eighty-four percent viewed internships as “very important” to overall success in developing a career and finding a job.

Seventy-three percent of recent surveyed graduates said they felt that college is worth the cost, but 31 percent felt that the most significant change their college could have made to add greater value to their higher education experience would be to provide “more hands-on practical experience, such as internships.” About one-half of graduates and those with at least two years of college reported having had an internship.

“Measuring College Outcomes,” Darryl Greer, Ph.D., Stockton University’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy’s Senior Fellow, and based on a statewide poll of 770 adults who were either recent graduates of public and private colleges or had at least two years of college.

The research also delved deeper to interpret recent college graduates’ opinion on specific skills gained from college experience. When asked about the most important skills and abilities learned in college, the top results were “problem solving” (84 percent), “communicating orally” (83 percent), “understanding and gathering information” (79 percent), “writing clearly” (79 percent), and “using technology” (77 percent.)

When asked which skill or ability gained in college is valued most by an employer, “problem solving” was once again the most popular answer (32 percent), with “teamwork” (21 percent), and “writing and speaking skills” (19 percent) as other top choices.

The survey builds on recently released HESIG research on current college students conducted for the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education, and from previous HESIG and Hughes Center research on college value and outcomes conducted by the Stockton Polling Institute.

The Stockton Polling Institute conducted the poll and surveyed recent college graduates and students to determine their opinions on their college experience and desired outcomes. The research was conducted as part of Greer’s Higher Education and Strategic Information and Governance Project (HESIG).

On Wednesday, June 15, HESIG and the Hughes Center will host a symposium on Achieving Student Outcomes: Linking Academic Success, Workforce Preparation and Civic Participation at Stockton University’s Campus Center Event Room. The event seeks to bring together collegiate professionals across New Jersey to discuss best practices for collegiate advising and career counseling, and will apply the “Measuring College Outcomes” findings. The symposium is hosted in support with the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education’s Student Success Collaborative. Free registration is available here.

“Colleges in New Jersey aspire to meet students’ college outcome expectations,” said Greer. “By gaining further understanding of student opinion on these issues, we can facilitate a more informed direction on change needed to help students succeed.”

The 2016 findings and prior reports can be downloaded at They contain supplemental graphics and charts.

The survey was conducted by the Stockton Polling Institute of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy. Live interviewers on the Stockton campus called both landlines and cell phones from January 27 to February 8, 2016. The poll was conducted with 770 adults throughout New Jersey who are college graduates or whose education level includes at the minimum two years of college. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level. MOE is higher for subsets.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

About the Author:

Laura Devaney

Laura Devaney is the Director of News for eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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