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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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07/18/18

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"Westchester Rising" featured Dyson Professors Michelle Land and John Cronin in "Pace Raises Awareness About Clean Water Scarcity"

07/18/18

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"Law & Crime" featured Law Professor Mimi Rocah in "Legal Experts Say Manafort Could Be Cutting Plea Deal as Judge Suddenly Delays Proceedings"

07/17/18

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"World Journal" Chinese daily newspaper covered Seidenberg’s annual Stem Camp

07/17/18

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"Fios1" featured Law Professor Kim Collica-Cox in "Kim Collica-Cox introduces 'Parenting, Prison, Pups' program"

07/16/18

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"Daily Voice" featured Criminal Justice Professor Kim Collica-Cox in "Pace University Criminal Justice Professor Wins Prestigious National Award"

07/16/18

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Chinese Media "New York Today" featured Seidenberg's Dean Jonathan Hill, School of Education's Professor Lauren Birney and Provost Vanya Quiñones speaking about the "Billion Oyster Project" and "STEM"

07/16/18

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"Esquire" featured Pace University law professor Bennett Gershman in "Mississippi's Lt. Governor Tried to Get a Road Built Straight from His Gated Community to a Mall"

07/13/18

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"Westchestergov.com" featured Dyson professor Kim Collica-Cox in "Pace Professor Wins National Service Award for County Jail's Animal-Assisted Mothering Program"

07/12/18

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"The Examiner" featured The Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in "Pace Women’s Justice Center Opens Walk-in Clinic in White Plains"

07/12/18

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"MSNBC" featured Pace Law professor Emily Waldman sharing her insights on the legacy of Justice Kennedy and the next nominee on the Velshi & Ruhle show

07/11/18

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"Forbes" featured Haub Law Professor Paul Rafelson in "Supreme Court Tax Ruling Will Not Help Main Street, Despite Popular Opinion"

07/11/18

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"The Journal News" featured Law Professor Emily Gold Waldman in "After tumultuous year, longtime varsity coaches could face uncertain future"

07/09/18

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"International Educator Magazine" featured Executive Director of Pace's English Language Institute James Stakenburg in "Weathering the Storm: How intensive English programs are responding to declining enrollments"

07/09/18

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Press Release: James Sterngold Joins Pace University as Vice President for University Relations

07/09/18

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"Rockland County Times" featured Dyson Professor Kimberly Collica-Cox in "Pace University Professor from New City Honored with Greatest Public Service by an Employee Award by Jefferson Foundation"

07/06/18

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"NY1" featured President Marvin Krislov Reacting to Trump Administration Rescinding Guidelines on Affirmative Action

07/06/18

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"Westchester Rising" featured President Marvin Krislov in "Educators Convene at Pace's Retention Conference"

07/06/18

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"Daily Journal" featured Dyson Professor Kimberly Collica-Cox in "Jefferson Awards Foundation Honors Local Volunteers at Annual National Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C."

07/06/18

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Press Release: Arc Stages Co-Hosts Performances from Sondheim on Screen at Pace University’s Pleasantville Campus

07/05/18

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"My Social Good News" featured Dyson Professor Kimberly Collica-Cox in "Pace University Professor Honored with Greatest Public Service by an Employee by Jefferson Awards Foundation"

07/02/18

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"Fios1" featured "The Pace Women's Justice Center Opens New Walk-In Clinic to Serve More Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Elder Abuse"

07/02/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured Pace University's Women's Justice Center in "Pace Women’s Justice Center opens new walk-in clinic"

07/02/18

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Press Release: Pace University Recognized For Its Service and Volunteerism

07/02/18

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"Hamlet Hub" featured Pace University Women's Justice Center in "Pace Women's Justice Center Opens New Walk-in Clinic"

07/02/18

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"Hamlet Hub" featured Pace University Women's Justice Center in "Pace Women's Justice Center Opens New Walk-in Clinic"

07/02/18

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Press Release: The Pace Women's Justice Center Opens New Walk-In Clinic to Serve More Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Elder Abuse

06/29/18

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Press Release: Pace University Professor Honored with Outstanding Public Service by an Employee by Jefferson Awards Foundation

06/29/18

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"Forbes" featured President Marvin Krislov's piece "Can Online Education Inspire? I Think So"

06/28/18

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"Clarion Ledger" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Was Curtis Flowers the only suspect in the Tardy Furniture Store murders?"

06/28/18

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"Refinery29" featured Performing Arts Student Elsa Stallings in "We Could All Use A Dose Of This 19-Year-Old Dancer's Ambition"

06/28/18

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"News12" featured law professor Emily Gold Waldman in "Expert: Kennedy’s retirement from Supreme Court could impact civil liberties"

06/28/18

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"CIO Magazine" featured Seidenberg Professor Mike Coakley in "15 ways to advance your IT career"

06/27/18

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"Real Clear Energy" featured Law Professor Robert F. Kennedy, Jr in "The Subversive Legal Crusade Against Fossil Fuel Production"

06/26/18

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"News12" featured Pace Women’s Justice Center (PWJC) in "Pace Women’s Justice Center Opens New Walk-in Clinic to Serve More Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault"

06/26/18

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"Broadway World" featured Pace University Performing Arts alumna Lexi Rabadi in "WW Interview: Pounding the Pavement with Positivity: A Conversation with Lexi Rabadi"

06/25/18

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"The Daily Dot" featured Dyson professor Leora Trub in "The steep psychological price we pay for social media"

06/25/18

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"Politifact" featured Dyson Professor Andy Crosby in "Is CPS the most understaffed district in Illinois?"

06/22/18

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"CNBC" featured Law Professor Paul Rafelson in "Why Amazon is the winner of the Supreme Court sales tax ruling"

06/22/18

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"Bloomberg" featured Law Professor Mimi Rocah in"Mueller Obstruction Inquiry Leaves Trump Few Options With Cohen"

06/22/18

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"The Journal News" featured Law Professor Vanessa Merton in "Housing separated immigrant children in Westchester a long-standing practice, advocates say"

06/22/18

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Press Release: Educators Discuss Ways to Keep Students in School at Pace University’s 2nd Annual Retention Conference

06/21/18

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"Fast Company" featured assistant director of Career Services Jim Davis in "These are the 5 “super skills” you need for jobs of the future"

06/20/18

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"Health Magazine" featured School of Performing Arts student Sydney Mesher in "People Are Shocked I’m a Dancer Because I Was Born Missing This Body Part"

06/20/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured assistant vice president for Student Success Sue Maxam's piece "Sue Maxam: The path to retaining students and keeping them engaged"

06/19/18

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"The Journal News" featured Law School's Cindy Kanusher in "New Pace Women's Justice Center walk-in clinic aims to serve victims of domestic violence"

06/19/18

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"The Wall Street Journal" featured Lubin professor Larry Chiagouris in "Ad Boycotts May Work—but Not for Very Long"

06/19/18

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"Taipei Times" featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-hei Lee's piece "N Korea-US summit is a milestone"

06/18/18

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"FIOS1 News" featured Seidenberg's Pace students working with grades 1 through 6 from the White Plains STEAM Academy

06/14/18

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"Pleasantville Patch" featured Vanessa Herman and Bill Colona in "Pace Gets $250,000 Tech Grant Through Murphy"

06/14/18

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"New York Law Journal" featured Haub Law Professor Mimi Rocah in "Do Talking Head 'Experts' Have Special Ethical Responsibilities?"

06/12/18

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"The Wall Street Journal" featured Lubin Professor Chunyan Li in "An Asian-American Awakening"

06/12/18

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"U.S. News and World Report" featured Law Professor Emily Gold Waldman in "10 Key Differences Between the LSAT and GRE"

06/12/18

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"The Journal News" featured Seidenberg professor Pauline Mosley in "Pace enhances White Plains after-school program with STEAM"

06/11/18

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"Westfair Communications" featured Law School Associates "Above the Bar winners evoke a different era"

06/07/18

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"The Wall Street Journal" featured President Marvin Krislov in "Congrats on the New College Job. What Will You Do With All Those Orange Ties?"

06/07/18

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"Diverse Issues in Higher Education" featured President Marvin Krislov's piece "Protecting the Dreams of Immigrant Students"

06/07/18

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"Journal News" featured Dyson Professor Kate Fink in "Pace University professor competes on 'Jeopardy!'; people in the news"

06/06/18

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"Westchester Rising" featured Pace University Golden Grads in "Pace’s ‘Golden Graduates’ Relive Summer of ’68"

06/06/18

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"Broadway World" featured Lubin alumni in "Pace University Gets A Seat At The Tony Awards"

06/06/18

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Press Release: Pace University Goes To the Tony Awards

06/06/18

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"Bennington Banner" featured Law School Professor Rosario Girasa in "Professor of law honored by Pace University"

06/06/18

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"Westchester Business Journal" featured Pace University's Golden Grads in "Déjà vu in Pleasantville"

06/06/18

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"Hudson Valley News Network" featured Pace University's Jim Stenerson in "14 Appointed to LGBTQ Advisory Board"

06/05/18

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"Westchester County Government" featured Dyson's Rachel Simon in "County Executive George Latimer Appoints Fourteen Members to the LGBTQ Advisory Board"

06/05/18

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"The New York Times" featured Lubin Professor Larry Chiagouris in "A Sign of ‘Modern Society’: More Multiracial Families in Commercials"

06/04/18

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"Associated Press" featured Pace University in "Parkland Seniors Balance Grief, Activism as Graduation Nears"

06/04/18

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"Education Dive" featured a video of President Marvin Krislov speaking about his first year at the helm of Pace University in "Video: Presidents reflect on proudest moments from 2018 commencements"

06/04/18

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"Wicked Local" featured Pace University students Griffyd Cole and Willy Kinch in "A college degree in technical theater? WHS tech graduates answer a resounding ‘Yes'"

06/04/18

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"ABA Journal" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Harvey Weinstein is indicted; could other accusers testify at trial?"

06/04/18

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"CNN" featured Pace Law School Professor Paul Rafelson's piece in "Why Amazon Prime should be free to everyone"

05/31/18

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"The Hollywood Reporter" featured Pace Law School professor Bennett Gershman in "The Reckoning: Harvey Weinstein and the Legal Case for (and Against) Prison Time"

05/31/18

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"Pleasantville Patch" featured Dyson Professor Kate Fink in "Pace Prof Appears On Jeopardy!"

05/31/18

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"Hawaii News Now" featured Pace University in "Pace University’s School of Education and College of Health Professions Launch New Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs this Fall"

05/30/18

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"Harrison HamletHub" featured Pace University's Golden Grads in "Pace University Golden Graduates Re-live Summer of ‘68 at Pleasantville Campus Commencement"

05/30/18

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"Inside Higher Ed" featured Pace University in "Let’s Focus Innovation on Social Mobility"

05/30/18

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured Pace University's Pleasantville Commencement in "Pace graduates urged to confront failure"

05/30/18