Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: American Journal of Business, Volume 26, Issue 2
President Obama characterized his call for more Americans to go to college to improve US competitiveness in the global context as “our generation’s Sputnik moment.” Do we really need more college graduates to be competitive? Should we be concerned with better prepared college graduates in key fields such as science and engineering or merely with more of the same? Commenting on the soft job market, Oloffson (2009) notes that the problem is an:
Oversupply of graduates. In 1973, a bachelor’s degree was more of a rarity, since just 47% of high school graduates went on to college. By October 2008, that number had risen to nearly 70%.
Vedder (2009) in his interview with Chronicle of Higher Education states:
A large subset of our population should not go to college, or at least not at public expense. The number of new jobs requiring a college degree is now less than the number of young adults graduating from universities, so more and more graduates are filling jobs for which they are academically overqualified.
What about the cost of college education? Money magazine’s senior writer, Wang (2009), found that, for the last 20 years college tuition has risen four times faster than the overall inflation rate. As a result, “after adjusting for financial aid, the amount families pay for college has risen 439% since 1982.” Is college education worth it? In pure economic terms, the lifetime earnings of college graduates is about $300,000 more, in current dollars, than a high school graduate (Clark, 2008). A counter argument offered regarding the higher incomes that college education brings is that it “may not make up for the savings it consumes or the debt it adds early in the life of a typical student” (Hough, 2010). Some even claim that the salary premium for graduates with bachelor’s degree after decades of steady increases fell 4.6 percent from 2001 to 2006 (Wang, 2009). However, there are other benefits of college education worth noting: the college graduates get better quality of jobs with health insurance, their unemployment rate is lower, and it is easier for them to find and hold jobs.
What about the quality of college graduates? Question is being raised if it really makes sense to increase enrolment in colleges when those who are already there are not learning much. Will the increased quantity of college graduates compensate for poor quality? A recent book by Richard Arum and Josipa Roska, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, has fueled the debate that current college students are disengaged. Their finding that:
[…] at least 45 percent of undergraduates demonstrated no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills in the first two years of college, and 36 percent showed no progress in four years.
makes us wonder what these students are actually learning in colleges?
The student disengagement among business majors, the most popular major of study with about 20 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded annually in the USA, as compared to other majors, is rather serious. Here are some findings:
National Survey of Student Engagement in its most recent survey found that, business majors spend less time preparing for classes than do students in any other field. About half of seniors majoring in business say that they spend fewer than 11 hours per week studying outside the class (http://nsse.iub.edu/html/annual_results.cfm).
Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses notes that on a national test of writing and reasoning skills, business majors had the weakest gains during the first two years of college. And business students score lower than every other major on GMAT the entry test for MBA programs.
While about 20 percent of bachelor degrees are awarded to business students who seem to be highly disengaged; only 5 percent are awarded in engineering. A large number of engineering graduates, especially in the masters and PhD programs are foreign nationals, who, in increasing numbers, prefer to return to their home countries. A recent Time article noted that many “progressive and business leaders agree that we need to make legal immigration easier and staple a green card to every engineering degree earned by a foreign-born national” (Stengel, 2011). Should not the USA be focusing more on science and engineering education as opposed to business education?
Why college students in the USA seem disinterested and disengaged in their education? In a two part article (Benton, 2011a, b), “A perfect storm in undergraduate education,” T. Benton provides a comprehensive list of factors that have contributed to the current state of education. Glenn (2011) focuses his observations on business students – the most popular undergraduate major. The contributors to the problem include: university administrators, faculty, and students themselves. Universities are being run more as business enterprise: focus on enrollment and retention of students (read customers) willing to pay full tuition, cutting costs by hiring part-time faculty, selling to students and their parents four years of experience of fun and non-academic life rather than critical and creative thinking. Faculty is demoralized, driven by student evaluations, constrained for time to focus on students due to increased research and service expectations, pleasing students and administrators through grade inflations, and demanding less from students and receiving lesser. Students are ill prepared for college classes, too busy working to pay for the college, too distracted by technological tools at their disposal, more interested in enjoying the college experience and networking rather than education, slide through classes using the lifeboat of teamwork, group projects and multiple tests that are easier for professors to grade and students to take.
Is the decline in quality of college graduates a global concern? How to help society see value in education? Should all high school graduates be encouraged to go to college? What good options should be made available to those who do not wish or are not qualified for college education? What are some novel ways to motivate the new generation of students to learn and become curious about intellectual pursuits? How to reduce the cost of education while improving its quality? How to evaluate and reward good teaching? Is it fair for disengaged students to evaluate faculty and use these evaluations to reward/punish faculty? What should a college teachers’ workload mix be? What should university administration’s priority be and how should various tradeoffs be managed?
Unless we devote time thinking answers to these questions, the higher education bubble will burst one day.
In this issue…
With increasing demand for top line growth, the effective development of sales managers is of paramount importance. The empirical study presented in the first article examines practices of small and large organizations as it relates to the training of sales managers. The findings suggest that while many similarities do exist between small and large firms’ sales manager training practices, some significant differences also exist in terms of teaching approaches, types of instructors, training locations, methods, and content utilized. Differences were also found in the use and perceived effectiveness of specific training practices.
The second article reports on the differences between Hispanic and Asian consumers who immigrated to the USA on their preferences in the appearance of and interaction with salespeople. Findings indicate that Asians have a significantly greater preference for a salesperson similar in appearance to themselves while Hispanics have significantly greater preference for salespeople who offer attentive service.
The research results presented in the third paper empirically examines the role of consumer sophistication on consumers’ purchase satisfaction. The study was conducted with a national sample of approximately 700 recent home purchasers. The results revealed that consumer sophistication is a key determinant of whether consumers are satisfied with their purchase experience. Sophistication not only seems to affect satisfaction but also customer perceptions of control, fairness and dissonance. Implications for marketing strategy and suggestions for future research are discussed.
The fourth article tests the motivational differences of salespeople from a variety of countries based on well-established dimensions of cross-cultural research. Results indicate that salespersons from Western cultures are more motivated by the needs for achievement, relationships, and power than salespeople from eastern cultures. The implications of the results for global sales force management and sales research are discussed.
Creativity is critical to developing and implementing business strategies. However, creativity in advertising as a B2B service has scarcely been examined. The fifth article explores how executives assimilate creativity in B2B services. The results suggest that creativity in B2B services incorporates a complex set of results-driven interactive components. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the exploratory findings.
Ashok K. Gupta
Benton, T.H. (2011a), “A perfect storm in undergraduate education, part I”, Chronicle of Higher Education, available at: http://chronicle.com/article/A-Perfect-Storm-in/12645120 February
Benton, T.H. (2011b), “A perfect storm in undergraduate education, part 2”, Chronicle of Higher Education, available at: http://chronicle.com/article/A-Perfect-Storm-in/126969/
Clark, K. (2008), “How much is that college degree really worth?”, US News, 30 October, available at: www.usnews.com/education/articles/2008/10/30/how-much-is-that-college-degree-really-worth
Glenn, D. (2011), “Business educators struggle to put students to work”, Chronicle of Higher Education, April, available at: http://chronicle.com/article/Business-Education-Not-Always/127108/14
Hough, J. (2010), “Is a college degree worthless?”, Smart Money, 7 November
Oloffson, K. (2009), “The job market: is a college degree worth less?”, Time, 8 December
Stengel, R. (2011), “One document under Siege”, Time, 4 July
Vedder, R. (2009), “Are too many students going to college?”, Chronicle of Higher Education, November, available at: http://chronicle.com/article/Are-Too-Many-Students-Going/49039/8
Wang, P. (2009), “Is college still worth the price?”, Money, 13 April
National Survey of Student Engagement Survey (n.d.), available at: http://nsse.iub.edu/html/annual_results.cfm