In a challenging economy, it’s harder than ever for recent college grads to figure out their plans post-college.
Albion College graduates, however, have an advantage in the search for work after college. Starting with the 2014 graduating class, the Albion Advantage promises to prepare students for the world of employment with a four-year career readiness plan that emphasizes professional experiences.
Albion students from the class of 2014 must pledge to maintain a 3.0 grade-point average, complete at least one experiential learning activity (an internship, study abroad or other extracurricular activity) and complete one career development activity per semester. If they fulfill the requirements, students are eligible for assistance after graduation, including tuition-free classes, internships, research positions and alumni networking.
“It will pay off many, many times over, not only for the reputation, but more importantly, it’s the quality of the of the education that matters,” said Donna Randall, college president. “I think there are three words that really describe it—intentional, integrated, everyone. The advantage says that we want every student to succeed, and we’re going to work with them to make that happen.”
A worthwhile investment
Because the Albion Advantage is part of the college’s strategic plan, funds for the advantage have come mostly from strategic planning funds approved by the college’s Board of Trustees in fall 2008. Randall declined to put a dollar figure to the funds.
The Career Development Center and academic institutes have also seen increases in funding to promote pre-professional and academic activities. An anonymous donor also provided $75,000 for the Albion Advantage Innovation Fund, which grants professors up to $10,000 if they bring career-readiness components in their classroom.
“It’s the students who need to integrate it and who will be the learner and front and center to integrating,” Randall said. (They will) take these courses, participate in these career readiness activities and be asked to write reflection pieces on what they learned in class.”
From the most recent statistics available from Albion’s Career Development Center for the college’ graduating class of 2009, 49 percent are employed either full or part-time and 40 percent chose to go on to graduate school or other opportunities. Seven percent are unemployed and seeking work, 3 percent chose volunteer service and 1 percent military service.
Nationally, the unemployment rate for colleges graduates ages 16-24 was nearly double that of 2007 at 9.0 percent, according to a report released in May by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit Washington, D.C. think tank.
The Albion Advantage successfully adds in career-readiness preparation without removing Albion’s historical liberal arts focus, Randall said. The career emphasis will depend on the individual student’s involvement, which will be guided by a new first-year student mentoring program called the Student Mentor Albion Advantage Resource Team (SMAART).
Hannah Koaches, Midland senior, is one of 27 SMARTees—student mentors—who will walk the first-year students through the process of reflecting on the their career readiness activities. As a SMARTee, she meets with her twelve students weekly and, besides educating them on the Albion Advantage, guides them through topics from college social life to technology training.
While Koaches agrees with the premise of the Albion Advantage, she also has a few concerns with the Advantage paying attention to all of the opportunities available at Albion.
“We have a lot of other amazing resources that are not being portrayed like professors—I’m pre-med, so I’m very familiar with the science center,” Koaches said. “We’re advertising these things, but we could just bring it right back to the education, rather than publicizing the extra benefits. We could also have included some of the old things we had, too.”
Koaches has also heard rumors—like the Albion Advantage Pledge requires a 3.7 GPA—floating around in regards to the Albion Advantage, which she attempts to dispel in her role as a SMARTee.
“We’ve been reassured that it’s not; I think it’s just reframing a lot of the things we already have here so the school can be seen in a more positive light,” Koaches said. “People are very confused about it; it’s a pilot program this year, so we’ll know more specifics about it later.”
Olivia Dynes, Decatur, Ind. first-year, said that she had a good opinion of the Advantage from what little she had learned about it so far, although it did not play a role in her decision to come to Albion.
“It seems to be a good thing, not restricting the availability of what you can study,” Dynes said. “They will work with you instead of you trying to adjust to what they want. (I chose Albion) due to the fact it was a small school; I did not think a large state school would be a good fit for me.”
The Advantage has received attention from both local and national media outlets, including the Washington Post, for being among the first of its kind in the nation. Within Michigan, a number of colleges offer post-graduation assistance, but none promise to offer their graduates a job. Michigan State University offers graduates free assistance at the Career Services Center for one year after graduation, while Alma College offers post-graduate online alumni networking opportunities.
The article is the first of three in a series about the Albion Advantage.