College is expensive. It's been the job-hunting license since the '70s or so. With tons of federal money flowing into higher education in the form of loans and grants, it is relatively unresponsive to competition and market forces. The universities get the cash, the student gets the debt.
But what if there was an alternative certification that could send a signal to an employer that a candidate is just as smart/educated/qualified as one that went through a four-year degree?
Recognizing that a GPA says more about a school's grading regime than the student's aptitude, a test meant to send such a signal is already available.
The Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+) presented by the Council for Aid to Education, a non-profit organization, seeks to test the critical thinking skills of college students. This spring, more than U.S. 200 colleges and universities will administer the exam to measure graduating students' worth to prospective employers.
The CLA+ is available to anyone, whether the student completed a four-year college degree or just a few online courses, as it is designed to be a tool in the employment process. It costs $35.
I can personally say that my university education has been extremely valuable in terms of shaping my critical thinking, cultural literacy, and passion for continuous learning. Then again, there are plenty of folks who have all of those qualities in spades and had a non-traditional or wholly absent higher-ed experience.
I'll close with BusinessWeek's take:
This could be big. If standardized testing becomes the norm in higher education, little-known schools that truly educate their students could leapfrog over famous ones whose students coast once they’re safely in the door. Standardized testing could be a boon in particular to such organizations as edX, Udacity, and Coursera that offer massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Photo by Pragmagraphr.