Friday, March 27, 2009

Changing the Status Quo

March 27, 2009- There’s no denying that the recession has changed America’s status quo. Watch the news to see white picket fence families living in pop-up tents because the bank foreclosed on their mortgage. Turn the channel and see the once-wealthy criminals being escorted into court after years of unregulated financial deceit. Flip again and learn how to grocery shop for a family of 4 for less than $40 a week. The financial crisis is changing everyday life – across all socioeconomic stratospheres. The rigid lines that once defined the haves and the have-nots are being blurred by an economy that put people in positions they never imagined they’d find themselves.

Our students and their families are no exception to the rule. While the federal government is promising that help is on the way to education, families are still grappling with how to approach college admission, and looking to those of us in the industry for advice. Undeniably, college cost is becoming more of a factor in college attendance, meaning that even the most talented students are re-evaluating their college choice based on projected debt burdens. In our network, we see that students are applying to more public schools than ever before; a 10% increase in one year. This leads to other shifts in a system, which has remained unchanged for decades.

The pathway of “brightest talent” to “elite high school” to “selective college” to “top employer” is muddied. Colleges have long known that best performing students don’t necessarily come from a prep school in New England or a private high school in Orange County. So they have been focused on adjusting their recruitment models to identify top talent in places they haven’t ordinarily looked. However, in order to fully complete the path, the question becomes- will employers be adjusting as well? Will they begin to broaden their recruitment efforts to a wider audience of colleges … recognizing that in this economy many of the best and brightest will not be pursuing the private elite for their post-secondary education?

Deloitte is one of the nation’s most notable organizations and has joined the ConnectEDU National Network to identify top talent in places they haven’t traditionally recruited. Instead of meeting new talent at schools considered “top feeders” for the working world, they are using technology to search for and build relationships with high-performing talent at schools all across the country. They are interested in meeting the Westinghouse Award winner who graduated from CUNY or the Rhodes Scholar finishing their last semester at the University of Georgia. Greenery crawling up brick facades is no longer the only backdrop. Their scope is allowing them to recruit from a pool of the very top performers at a wide variety of colleges as opposed to the top 100 performers from a small pool of colleges,… and therefore they are also diversifying the thinking and increasing the competition!

Other organizations are quickly realizing that they must broaden the number of schools for their outreach plans as our top talent broadens its reach across higher education. ConnectEDU has recently partnered with the Massachusetts High Technology Council, a group of CEOs developing an employer/student relationship model in Massachusetts that can be replicated all across the ConnectEDU National Network. With innovation, together we can build a better system of identifying and developing tomorrow’s workforce that truly changes the status quo and ensures that the very brightest are uncovered, regardless of the financial pressures that might impact their college decision making.

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