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College student sues university for reimbursement of tuition and thousands of dollars in emotional distress after 3 months of looking for work; this story hit the news as a tell us what you think piece for one area news station. It was down played by the news anchors who presented it with the ere of being just another lawsuit in an over litigious society that is anti responsibility, pointing out that she had only been looking for 3 months, asking the question can anyone get a job that quickly in this economy, and pointing to her 2.7 grade point average stating this wasn’t even a student who was hitting the books. However, is there more to this than meets the eye; as publicized, the student took the advice of college career counselors and sent out her résumé in mass, did everything she was told to do and even with a lucrative degree in IT still has no job. Further the student is asking for return of her tuition and, while the emotional distress portion of the suit seems ridiculous, even without the high amount in the neighborhood or $2,000, any forward thinking graduate is going to be thinking about their student loan bills coming due in another 3 months. Add to that the worries about making a life for themselves and the lack of places to turn to for career resources, lack of avenues to pursue and it starts to make a little more sense.

Plus people need to understand that there is no other recourse available to students to hold colleges accountable for the information they do or do not get from the career services departments and the quality or lack there of- of the information given. There is no mechanism for students who feel they have been mislead, who were not informed even after being investigatory and asking questions, seeking out knowledge on how to begin their careers. While the student filing the lawsuit was given information by career services, many times that doesn’t happen and it has yet to be determined if it was the right information or the best information. This points to a larger problem of college career service departments that are not only lack luster but down right nonfunctional; in one such accredited college a student was told repeatedly to go to career services by their academic advisor but never why. At the same college when the student did go they were given a step or two on what they should do but no contact information for the people they should be getting in touch with and then were quickly ushered out of the office. We have accredited colleges where the tutoring centers for various subjects are more highly advertized than the career services department and what it does; once students are there and asking questions workers often don’t seem to be able to do any kind of self advertisement in telling them they offer help with things such as résumé writing, assistance in cover letter creation, or filling out job applications, setting up internships. And thus the students don’t get that help.

Those examples are just the tip of the iceberg and are more than just an annoyance more than just a hurdle; they can derail a career and turn a college graduate into at best a waiter, fast food worker, or stock person at worst, a welfare recipient. Even when career services is somewhat functional it may not bode well for the student; in one case a student went back to their career services department after searching for employment for an extended period of time and was told they could be set up with an internship. However, the only internship they could find for a student with an associates in business was a minimum wage position in a neighboring towns casino. Accredited colleges routinely are behind the times in what they offer students in and out of academics; career service departments and academic professionals alike fail to dispel the common belief among both students and the general public that a degree will get your foot in the door, when experience is becoming almost more important. Coupled with that, colleges are unprepared to provide internships for the majority of their degrees; appropriate staff do not even mention known opportunities or attempt to arrange them, in a time where it takes someone from a job center or college career services to liaison with area companies to keep longstanding positions for students or create new ones based on specific student interests or to give a wider rage of work experience choices.

In fact, many colleges still offer obsolete degrees usually the shorter but long dead associates degree in many fields that force students to continue their educations to be successful in the working world. A student from a Midwestern business college found this out upon talking to someone in the human resources field they wanted to enter, as their studies drew to a close, only to find out they needed a bachelors before they could really get a job. The student was distressed not only because they were running out of money, but also they felt short changed by the college in that they presented a shorter, less expensive, very attractive degree program while apparently knowing it was worthless. For those campuses that use recruitment tactics that draw students to their university, it can carry more of a sense of betrayal to degree earners. Furthermore, the above is what happens to conscientious students who attempt to cover all their bases; many rely on their general knowledge or genuinely believe they know what is needed, then are slapped in the face as they try to enter the workforce via their degree. Another way colleges have not kept up with the times is their failure to have adequate transition services between school and work; colleges don’t realize that with this education generation they may have done everything but hold a job and therefore need more help with résumés, cover letters and applications. Even for those industrious, research minded students nothing can replace one on one interaction in filling out a job application; further, for those students who have worked, many times it is at minimum wage jobs that simply require an application, not cover letter or résumé. One of the reasons this student is filing a lawsuit is because no one was there to advise her on a reasonable amount of time it might take to get a job factoring in things like the economy, degree field, qualifications and experience. Somewhere along the line colleges forgot that they were dealing with, for the most part 18-21 year old just starting out in life who need direction; collegiate institutions with lager populations of the so called non traditional students need to be more aware of the unique challenges this group of students face and offer services accordingly.

This lawsuit is a signal and a sign that it’s time for colleges to step up to the needs and demands of students making sure that they are aware of the experience requirements along with degree requirements necessary for success in the working world. Colleges need to advertize their career service departments and make sure every student knows where it is and what it does; staff in these areas need to be able to provide a quick rundown of the services offered and how students might use them, coordinate internships for students, offer contact information for school activities students will want to join to aid them in their career field rather than the haphazard systems we have now. If the institution cannot find or create internships or other work experience opportunities in a degree field then they should not offer it. There should be review boards that handle issues like those brought about in this lawsuit, and part of the accreditation process should be an intense evaluation of career services offered by the institution. And those that continually fail said scrutiny should face losing accreditation. Contrary to the news anchors tone, it isn’t about this young woman’s GPA, it’s not even an inability to demonstrate the skills she was supposed to learn; it’s the complete non existence of any opportunity to demonstrate those skills. This is not about frivolity; it’s about a panicked person who has nowhere else to go, so they turned to the legal system. People can scoff all they want at the 3 months she spent looking for a job; if it was 3 years would that make a difference in the court of public opinion? And is this young person supposed to wait that long before seeking some recourse to the mess their life is about to become, in a climate where with a degree they may very will find themselves overqualified for minimum wage, get a job type work, and under qualified for jobs in their area of study. The aforementioned scenario leaving them jobless and hopeless despite doing what society and career advisors told them to do; we should be surprised we don’t see more of this not less. Dismissing it as frivolous or ridiculous only insures we see more of these types of legal issues, as students have nowhere else to turn.

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