For Immediate Release

David Tritelli
Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
202-888-0811 (office)

Employers More Interested in Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Than College Major

National Survey Shows Need to Increase Focus on Applied Learning, Intercultural Skills, Ethical Judgment, and Evidence-Based Reasoning as Outcomes for All College Students

Apr 10, 2013

AAC&U Launches New LEAP Employer-Educator Compact to Respond

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released today a report, It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, summarizing the findings of a national survey of business and nonprofit leaders. Among other things, the survey reveals that 74 percent of business and nonprofit leaders say they would recommend a twenty-first century liberal education to a young person they know in order to prepare for long-term professional success in today’s global economy.

“While policy leaders have been focused intensely on what college students are choosing as their majors and what salaries they are being paid shortly after they graduate, business leaders who actually hire college graduates are urging us to prioritize the cross-cutting capacities a college education should develop in every student, in every major,” said Mildred García, president of California State University, Fullerton and chair of AAC&U’s board of directors. “No matter what careers students seek, their college education must equip them with intercultural skills, ethical judgment, and a sophisticated understanding of the diversity of our society and of any successful business or organization.”

AAC&U also announced today the launch of a new LEAP Employer-Educator Compact to make quality learning a national priority as employers seek college graduates with a broader set of skills and knowledge to fuel our innovation-driven economy.  More than 100 college presidents—all members of the LEAP Presidents’ Trust—and 150 business and nonprofit leaders have signed on to the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact and pledged to work together to ensure that all college students—including those attending two-year and four-year, public and private institutions—have access to a high-quality liberal education that fully prepares them for work, life, and citizenship.

A National Survey of Business and Nonprofit Leaders: Key Findings

  • Nearly all employers surveyed (93 percent) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.
  • Even more (95 percent) say they prioritize hiring college graduates with skills that will help them contribute to innovation in the workplace.
  • About 95 percent of those surveyed also say it is important that those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning.
  • More than 75 percent of those surveyed say they want more emphasis on five key areas including: critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.
  • 80 percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.

Employers and Educators Join Together in a Compact to Prioritize Quality in College Learning

In light of the demands of today’s economy, AAC&U is launching the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact as part of its continuing national initiative, Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP).  Members of the LEAP Presidents’ Trust have reached out to business and nonprofit leaders to develop partnerships designed to ensure that more college students gain the broad outcomes of a liberal education and concrete experience by applying their learning in real-world settings.

Members of the Presidents’ Trust include leaders of institutions representing every sector of higher education—liberal arts colleges, community colleges, comprehensive state universities, and research universities. Business and nonprofit leaders signing the compact include individuals from many sectors of the economy including: finance, engineering, manufacturing, healthcare, human services, insurance, education, media, retail, real estate, and energy.  For a full list of LEAP Presidents’ Trust members and employers signing the compact, see:

All the individuals signing the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact have committed to:

  1. Helping Americans understand the rising demands of a global workplace and the need for every student to acquire liberal education outcomes;
  2. Ensuring that all college students have access to experiences that help them develop the broad knowledge and intellectual skills needed for success;
  3. Expanding and supporting new designs for hands-on learning, including such things as senior projects, undergraduate research, and internships;
  4. Advancing the dual mission for American higher education to prepare students both for successful careers and for civic responsibility;
  5. Documenting progress in helping all students achieve key learning outcomes, including their ability to apply learning to complex problems.

In the coming year, business and nonprofit leaders will join together with partner college presidents to sponsor events and launch and/or sustain ongoing programs to advance these shared goals.

See the full report on the findings from the national survey of employers.

Source: It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success. 2013. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities and Hart Research Associates.