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10/03/2017 News Release Image

The Chronicle of Higher Education: "Can a 20-Minute Test Tell Employers What a College Degree Cannot?"

Goldie Blumenstyk from "The Chronicle of Higher Education" interviewed Pace President Marvin Krislov at their offices in Washington, D.C. She quotes him in her article about whether hiring practices should include tests and whether those tests can be more of a determining factor of employment readiness than a college degree. 

While sympathetic to the goals of these efforts, he worries that the tests, however well intentioned, could screen out good candidates too. "I would hope employers would have holistic hiring practices in the same way as colleges do in admissions," says Mr. Krislov, who was general counsel at the University of Michigan during its legal fights over affirmative action. Colleges teach in many ways, he adds, and "you can’t replace the set of experiences with a one-shot test."

 

From "The Chronicle of Higher Education:"

Can a 20-Minute Test Tell Employers What a College Degree Cannot?

By Goldie Blumenstyk 

OCTOBER 03, 2017 

 

When it comes to hiring, many employers still lean toward graduates from name-brand institutions. Yet those employers don’t entirely trust what a college degree represents. Does it really mean you can get the job done?

More and more, their answer is no.

That’s a problem, and some education groups and companies think they have a way to fix it. Their idea: simple tests that employers can use to measure whether college graduates and others are really ready for the jobs they apply for.

Few of the backers of these tests say — not publicly, at least — that their assessments would replace the degree and everything it signals. But they do argue that the assessments, often taking no more than 20 minutes to complete, can make up for information that the degree doesn’t seem to communicate. And, they say, the tests could also help to level the playing field in hiring.

Too many graduates "don’t get a shot at the high-value jobs they should be getting," says Roger Benjamin, president of the Council for Aid to Education. "That’s a big deal in a liberal democracy."

Fifteen years ago, the council created the Collegiate Learning Assessment, now called CLA+, a standardized test that measures graduates’ thinking and communication skills. Now the group is one of several educational organizations working to develop a screening test to assure employers that job applicants have the critical reasoning and writing skills employers want from applicants with a bachelor’s degree. At the urging of Mr. Benjamin, who has been quietly crusading on this issue for several years, the council is studying whether it could adapt its CLA+ into a leaner, employer-friendly version.

"It’s not a direct attack on the institutions or the B.A.," says Mr. Benjamin. He sees it instead as a way to open up opportunities at less-selective institutions "and the human capital they represent."

A short test is essential. The CLA+ takes 90 minutes to complete, and it is scored by humans. The council is weighing a version, scored by machine, that would take about a third of the time to complete.

That’s because most employers won’t consider requiring anything longer than about 20 minutes at the first stage of hiring for fear of alienating potential applicants, says Monica Herk, vice president for education research at the Committee for Economic Development. The 75-year-old organization, now part of the business-focused Conference Board, is promoting the use of an easily administered screening test that it hopes will be "a game changer for low- and middle-income job applicants, for employers, and ultimately for the postsecondary sector."

"We’re not claiming to measure everything that colleges teach by any means," says Ms. Herk. The experiment is known as the Essential Competencies Project and is backed by several education-focused foundations. The project has begun to enlist employers who will administer an existing assessment and then measure whether it is a better screening tool than standard information, including academic credentials.

The project has already identified the online test it will ask employers to use, but Ms. Herk declined to name it. The test measures what the companies consider foundational skills, "not whether you can program Python," says Ms. Herk, and will be used by companies hiring for so-called middle- and high-skill jobs. (High-skill jobs are those in which 80 percent of the current occupants have a bachelor’s degree; middle-skill jobs are those in which 80 percent don’t.)

The goal is to see if the assessment "provides a more precise signal" than a degree would in identifying people who perform well in their jobs and stick around for a while, Ms. Herk says. "Is it a complete assessment of what they learned? No, it isn’t. But right now, employers are judging on much less."

Like Mr. Benjamin, she sees the screening test as a way to bring more fairness into the hiring system. When employers rely on the prestige of a college to determine who gets considered for jobs, says Ms. Herk, it "reinforces all sorts of socioeconomic inequalities in our country."

Holistic Hiring?

None of this activity is taking place in a vacuum. Companies and others already spend $1 billion a year on hiring assessments. But most of that testing identifies whether applicants have skills for a specific job, not whether they are critical thinkers. And those targeted tests come into play later in the hiring process, not at the screening stage. That’s because under fair-employment laws, employers can’t use tests unless they are relevant to the job.

The interest in finding an ideal pre-hire screening test comes because companies and public-policy groups are concerned that employers rely too heavily on the bachelor’s degree as a screen for filling jobs, even when the jobs themselves don’t require that level of skills. It also arises from a broader societal push for more hiring based on proven competencies rather than academic pedigrees, with companies like Google and Ernst & Young having famously declared that they would no longer require a degree. A 2015 survey from Gallup found that only 13 percent of Americans strongly agree that college graduates in this country are well prepared for success in the workplace.

At the same time, higher education has begun rethinking the way it recognizes students’ skills. More institutions have turned to competency-based degree programs or the use of badges and other new forms of credentials to signal students’ skills to employers and others.

Still, the idea of using simple tests from outside parties as a check on the college degree opens up a potential new challenge to the value of a college education, even if the test advocates insist they’re not looking to use these assessments as a stand-in for the degree itself.

To be sure, the degree still matters. Employers pay a premium in salary for people with bachelor’s degrees, says Sean Gallagher, who studies credentials and hiring issues as executive director of Northeastern University’s new Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. But the interest in these tests, he says, is another sign that "people are trying to break the monopoly" higher education has in certifying job candidates.

The move toward general pre-hiring screening tests has drawn a mixed response from some education leaders and others who study the employment scene.

Marvin Krislov, who was formerly president of Oberlin College, is now president at Pace University, which is less selective. While sympathetic to the goals of these efforts, he worries that the tests, however well intentioned, could screen out good candidates too. "I would hope employers would have holistic hiring practices in the same way as colleges do in admissions," says Mr. Krislov, who was general counsel at the University of Michigan during its legal fights over affirmative action. Colleges teach in many ways, he adds, and "you can’t replace the set of experiences with a one-shot test."

But in this era, by some estimates, job openings attract an average of 250 applications, and employers spend about six seconds reviewing each one. Digitized applicant-tracking systems and automated keyword searches for screening résumés do much of the initial dirty work. If there’s holistic hiring taking place, it often comes much later in the process.

And winning over employers and applicants won’t be easy.

"There’s a lot of appeal to the notion of a leveling across brands" of colleges, says Matthew Sigelman, chief executive at Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job-ad data. But Burning Glass hasn’t seen much interest in tests that aren’t skill-specific.

He points to the National Career Readiness Certificate, or NCRC, a credential that students can earn through ACT’s WorkKeys program, which is used primarily by high schools and community colleges. In 2016, only 4,831 job postings called for the certificate, out of nearly 26 million unique job postings analyzed by Burning Glass.

(An ACT spokesman says much of the demand for the test comes from employers working directly with ACT and local colleges to fill particular employment gaps, so many of those jobs don’t necessarily appear in the Burning Glass analysis.)

"Skills are more easily evaluated in context," says Mr. Sigelman. He questions whether tests of general college-level skills can gain currency in the hiring marketplace. They’ll have to crack the chicken-and-egg cycle, he says. "Employers aren’t going to ask for something for which there isn’t a lot of supply," he says. And "learners don’t want a certificate no one asked for."

Corporate Upstarts

None of that is discouraging to advocates like Mr. Benjamin of the Council for Aid to Education. Two-thirds of the jobs that call for a bachelor’s degree require the kinds of problem-solving, critical-thinking, and writing skills that the CLA+ has reliably measured for 15 years, he says. The Italian version of the CLA+ has already been used in hiring there, he notes.

It’s hardly alone. Indeed, Suzana Delanghe, chief commercial officer at ACT, says that the number of people passing the three 40-to-60-minute tests required for the NCRC credential has grown steadily over the past five years. (More than 488,000 people earned the certificate in 2016.) "There is a huge demand to find a standardized test" that communicates applicants’ skills to employers, especially overseas, she contends.

Several newer companies on the hiring-assessment scene say they are trying to deal with the same hiring-preference issues that Mr. Benjamin’s and Ms. Herk’s efforts aim to address.

These newcomers include:

  • Koru, a "predictive hiring" company, sells an assessment to companies that it says can evaluate potential employees based on seven competencies. Josh Jarrett, a co-founder, says its "grit over grades" evaluation is a way to test if a candidate will "be effective when there’s not a syllabus anymore."
  • Pymetrics, a company founded by two neuroscientists, provides a series of 12 online games, taking one to three minutes each, that companies can use to screen applicants’ suitability for jobs. Pymetrics now works with more than 40 companies, and at least one, Unilever, is using the gamified testing system as a first screen for all of its entry-level hiring, rather then visit a select number of college campuses. Frida Polli, a co-founder, says she created the company after seeing "the mess that was recruiting" while at business school, to bring more "objectivity and fairness" into the process.
  • EquitySim, a start-up, provides students and others the chance to simulate the experience of investing a multimillion-dollar portfolio, while underlying software evaluates them on the steps they took in making their decisions. Now used in more than 220 college classes, EquitySim is both an educational tool for professors and a screening tool for several investment banks that work with the company to identify promising job candidates. Justin Ling, a 29-year-old recent graduate of Simon Fraser University, says he co-founded the company in 2016 because he was frustrated that the "brand name of your school matters a lot when comes to investment banking." Mr. Ling says he hopes to expand EquitySim’s scope to other industries and eventually create a simulation that would allow students to demonstrate their skills directly to employers.

All of these efforts bear watching, says Northeastern’s Mr. Gallagher. "It’s a hot market right now," he notes, and while the ramifications for colleges are not clear, there’s no doubt that there will be some.

"It’s hard to say the degree is completely broken and going the way of the dodo," he says. But this movement shows, he says, that "there are some cracks in the foundation."

Goldie Blumenstyk writes about the intersection of business and higher education. Check out www.goldieblumenstyk.com for information on her new book about the higher-education crisis; follow her on Twitter @GoldieStandard; or email her at goldie@chronicle.com.

Read the article on the website of "The Chronicle of Higher Education."

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"Broadway World" featured Shania Taub, music theatre faculty at Pace University, in "Shaina Taub to Celebrate Album Release at Joe's Pub"

03/28/18

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"Bklyner" featured alumna Shaheen Pasha in "Shaheen Pasha on American Dream, Mental Illness, and Telling Stories"

03/27/18

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"CBS" featured Law School Dean David Yassky in "NYC Lawmakers Propose ‘Right To Disconnect’ Legislation"

03/26/18

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"New York Post" featured Law Professor Jennifer Magas in "Don’t hold back: Employers are all ears when it comes to grievances"

03/26/18

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"Huff Post" featured students Joey Wong and Monet McFarlane in "For Stoneman Douglas Alums, Witnessing Tragedy From Afar Sprung Them Into Action"

03/26/18

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"News12" featured Pace University in "Pace University students prepare for gun control march"

03/26/18

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"Fios1" featured Pace University students and Professor Maria Luskay in "College seniors create Puerto Rico documentary in aftermath of Hurricane Maria"

03/26/18

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"The Hill" features Law Professor Bennett Gershman's opinion piece "Hate speech banners should be banned from highways and rooftops"

03/23/18

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"JWMG" featured Pace University student Josh Lerner for his role in “King of the Jews” in "Bringing a moral dilemma from yesterday into our current times"

03/23/18

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"Mother Jones" quoted Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Philadelphia’s New DA Found an Innovative Way to Legalize Pot—and Other Cities Should Pay Attention"

03/23/18

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"Pop Sugar" quoted College of Health Professions Director of Nutrition and Dietetics Christen Cupples Cooper, EdD., RD in "The Biggest Myths About Being a Vegan Lifter You Need to Stop Believing"

03/23/18

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"The Examiner" featured Pace University in "CHS Takes Part in Hudson Valley Regional FIRST® Robotics Competition"

03/23/18

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"The Austin Chronicle" features Dyson Professor Will Pappenheimer in "SXSW Panel Recap: Immerse Yourself: AR & VR in Museums and the Arts"

03/23/18

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Press Release: Pace University Expands on work with New York City Department of Education and Billion Oyster Project with $2 Million Grant from National Science Foundation

03/22/18

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"News12" featured Pace University in "Pace students document destruction in Puerto Rico"

03/21/18

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NY1 News covered the Junior 100 Career Day panel.

From NY1:

03/20/18

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"Business Insider" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "3 witnesses have contradicted a key portion of Jeff Sessions' Russia testimony — and it could intensify scrutiny on him"

03/20/18

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"New York Law Journal" featured Assistant Dean Jill Backer in a piece "Law School Employment Data Reporting: Are We Losing the Forest for the Trees?"

03/20/18

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"The Hill" features Law Professor Audrey Rogers in an opinion piece "Misinformation campaign is at the center of opposition to common sense sex trafficking legislation"

03/20/18

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"Phys.org" features Law Professor Paul Rafelson in "Amazon sellers seek more clout with new 'merchants guild"

03/20/18

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"Daily Voice" features Pace University in "Pace Students Spend Spring Break Helping Storm Victims"

03/20/18

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"WAMU" featured Alumna Dena Simmons in "Dena Simmons: How Does Imposter Syndrome Affect Students Of Color?"

03/19/18

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"NJ.com" featured student Kimberly Caputo in "Making dreams a reality: Non-profit puts N.J. kids on the stage at Radio City"

03/19/18

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"Euronews" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Exclusive - Sources contradict Sessions' testimony he opposed Russia outreach"

03/19/18

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"The New Orleans Advocate" featured Dyson Professor Thomas Keith in "Letter perfect: Tennessee Williams’ correspondence at Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary fest"

03/19/18

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"News12" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Legal expert: Case against Mount Vernon mayor not a slam dunk"

03/19/18

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"Westfair" featured Pace University in "Summit on water monitoring"

03/16/18

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"The Wave" featured Pace University Students in "Rebuild Crew Comes To Belle Harbor"

03/16/18

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"Westchester Rising" featured "Pace Joins Ellen DeGeneres' 'Acts of Good' Campaign

03/15/18

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"Westmore News" featured Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law in "Facts of Life"

03/15/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" features "Pace Students Volunteer To Do Good"

03/15/18

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"NY1" features Pace University in "Students' Spring Break At The Beach — To Fix Sandy-Damaged Home"

03/15/18

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"News12" features "Pace University journalism students to cover Puerto Rico"

03/14/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured Haub Professor Vanessa Merton in "Westchester legislators approve Immigrant Protection Act"

03/14/18

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"Miami Herald" quoted Law Professor Leslie Garfield Tenzer in "Hundreds of 15-year-old brides in Missouri may have married their rapists"

03/14/18

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"WAMC North East Public Radio" quotes Haub Professor Vanessa Merton in "Westchester Legislators Pass Immigrant Protection Act"

03/14/18

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"LI Herald.com" featured Pace University in "33 New York colleges pledge prospective students will not be penalized for anti-gun violence walkout"

03/13/18

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"U.S.News & World Report" featured Lubin Associate Professor Walter Antognini in "Taxation Procrastination: Where to Go for Last-Minute Tax Filing Advice"

03/13/18

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"News12" featured "Pace University journalism students to cover Puerto Rico"

03/13/18

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"The Kansas City Star" quoted Law Professor Leslie Garfield Tenzer in "Hundreds of Missouri’s 15-year-old brides may have married their rapists"

03/13/18

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"Daily News" featured Haub Visiting Scholar Delcianna Winders piece "Why is it so hard for President Trump to flatly forbid trophy hunting imports?"

03/13/18

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"Broadly" featured Pace Health Professor Dr. Erica Gollub in "Will Americans Ever Actually Use the Female Condom?"

03/13/18

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Statement from President Marvin Krislov on the passing of Erivan Haub

03/12/18

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"Pleasantville Patch" featured "Pace University Students Learn 1st Lesson: New York is Our Campus"

03/12/18

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Press Release: Inaugural Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series at Pace University Brought Together Thinkers and Leaders to Discuss Diversity and Inclusion

03/09/18

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"Yahoo News" featured Law Professor John Nolon in "The Tainted Water Crisis In Upstate New York That Andrew Cuomo Can’t Shake"

03/09/18

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"The Examiner" featured "Pace Students Vow Change During Tribute to School Shooting Victims"

03/08/18

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"West Virginia Record" features Pace University in "Professor praises National Energy and Sustainability Moot Court at WVU"

03/08/18

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"The Journal News" featured an interview with Ardsley's, Julian McGarvey about the game winning basket that took place at Pace University's Goldstein Center

03/08/18

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"The Hill" features Professor Bennett Gershman's opinion piece about the Russian investigation

03/08/18

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Distinguished Law Professor Mimi Rocah spoke with Katy Tur on "MSNBC" about Sam Nunberg

03/07/18

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Press Release: No Bathing Suits or Tan Lines for Pace University Students Selecting a Spring Break of Service to Victims of Superstorm Sandy

03/07/18

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"Westchester Smart" featured Pace University's Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems in "At the Leading Edge of Cybersecurity"

03/06/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law in "Pace Law Highlights Public Corruption" March 9th

03/06/18

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"Yonkers Rising" features Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law in "Pace to Host Symposium on Public Corruption"

03/06/18

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"Hartford Courant" featured Seidenberg Alumna Dr. Elizabeth Teracino in "Elizabeth Teracino earns doctorate in economics in the Netherlands"

03/06/18

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"The Hudson Independent" featured Law Professor Vanessa Merton in "Local Immigrants Face Changes"

03/06/18

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The "New York Post" featured "A miracle steal and insane heave decides New York hoops title" at Pace University

03/05/18

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"Fox News Insider" featured "High School Player's EPIC 70-Foot Buzzer-Beater Wins State Championship" at Pace University

03/05/18

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"Bizz Times" featured Pace Alumni U.S. Marine Corps veteran Matthew Mainzer in "Heiman helps veterans transition to civilian careers"

03/05/18

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"Dance Magazine" covered "What It Takes to Make It As a Commercial Dancer" featuring Pace University Students

03/05/18

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FiOS 1 News covers Pace donation to Food Bank for Westchester

03/02/18

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Dyson College Professor of Communication Studies Adam G. Klein's featured article about the NRA's video channel in the "The Conversation"

03/02/18

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"NY Students Quick to Throw Themselves Into March Organizing," featured in "Juvenile Justice" by Clarissa Sosin

03/02/18

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Press Release: Prospective Pace University Students Learn First Lesson: “New York City is Our Campus"

03/02/18

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Pace University students hold 'Never Again' rally to take on gun violence on "Fios1 News"

03/02/18

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Ibraiz Tarique, director of HR programs at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business is quoted in "Westchester County Business Journal" speaking about student loan assistance

03/01/18

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Law Professor Darren Rosenblum speaks with NBC on major shift for Dick's Sporting Goods on Assault Rifles

02/28/18

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Student Lindita Kulla featured on "News 12" after anti-gun rally at Pace

02/28/18

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"Pace Students Say 'Never Again' To School Gun Violence, Lax Legislators" - Daily Voice

02/28/18

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Karl Rabago. executive director of Pace's Energy and Climate Center is quoted in "City Newspaper" on solar energy

02/28/18

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Pace University students in Pleasantville plan a rally to remember the mass shooting victims, reports Daily Voice

02/27/18

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Mimi Rocah is quoted on Hardball on MSNBC-TV News speaking about the Russia investigation

02/27/18

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Dean Harriet Feldman, College of Health Professions and Lienhard School of Nursing Dean featured in "Diverse Issues in Higher Education" on "Meeting Nursing Demands Through Diversity"

02/26/18

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Pace University law professor and mental disability law expert Linda Fentiman is featured in "Politifact" speaking about laws involving mentally ill people and guns

02/26/18

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Law Professor Bennett Gershman's book "Prosecution Stories" is reviewed by "New York Law Journal"

02/26/18

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Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law applicants can now use the GRE exam for admission featured in "Above the Law" by Kathryn Rubino

02/26/18

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Associate Dyson Professor Hillary Knepper is quoted in "City and State New York" about how Changing Political and Technological Landscapes are Making Advanced Degrees More Crucial Than Ever

02/26/18

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Alumni Mike Adenuga ranks 3rd in "Business Insider's" world's richest black billionaires of 2018

02/26/18

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Alumna Andrea Marra wants to be NY’s first transgender state senator featured in "City and State New York"

02/26/18