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EDIT: The importance of career centers

Universities, in a tough job market, need to do more to help their students to find a job.

According to a recent article by USA Today (originally produced by education-news outlet The Hechinger Report of Columbia University), most universities are spending less and not more on their career counseling centers. In 2012, stated the report, the budget of the average college career office dropped by about 16 percent. Accompanying that drop is a lessened amount of job — and internship hunting — workshops, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

This, we can all agree, is unsettling. Through their career centers, universities should consistently make significant efforts to connect students to opportunities in the job market, because getting a job, many would argue, is a (if not the) point of a college education — especially one that costs students upwards of $50,000 a year. Students sometimes go deep into debt to fund their tuition. So as job markets become increasingly competitive, career offices need to keep up with demands from both students and employers.

This is difficult, of course — and what exactly, moreover, does it mean to keep up? — The Hechinger Report wrote that the average college career counselor today serves 1,645 students. On campuses with enrollments of more than 20,000 students, the ratio is one to 5,876.

But a strong career center ensures students and prospective students alike of the value of their higher education. And it benefits not just students but also the university: high rates of job placement yield high university rankings.

The Boston University Center for Career Development makes a marked effort to help students in their efforts to find internships and jobs. In addition to providing a number of career opportunities via the BU CareerLink, the center also helps students fine-tune their resumes and practice interviewing. It also hosts career fairs, the largest of which occur once every spring and fall. These efforts have proven effective, as Boston University ranked highly on the New York Times’ employability survey this past fall. We are very grateful for the Center’s efforts.

This does not mean, however, that some aspects of BU’s career services can’t be improved. For one, career networks are often divided between the different colleges — College of Arts and Sciences students cannot access College of Communication career centers, for example. This is unhelpful to many students.

Additionally, BU students are provided only limited access to the network of the Alumni Association, in which there are 300,000 members, according to the Association’s website. Full access is only granted to students once they become alumni. While there are undoubtedly reasons for this, we still feel that connecting students to alumni before they graduate would be a successful way to also connect students with potential mentors and employers who also graduated from BU.

Alumni networking is a strong and often successful mechanism for getting a job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are found through networking. Networking, it appears, beats talent. (On top of that, The New York Times recently reported that companies are more and more preferring and hiring internal referrals.) Opening our alumni network to students is a sure way to foster a stronger BU community both on campus and elsewhere by building students’ networking abilities and in doing so strengthen our school’s reputation.

This is not to say that BU students are incapable of finding jobs on their own — on the contrary. We have been trained by the career center and have made our own connections with professors and employers. A BU diploma is reviewed with high regard.

But we do expect a portion of our high tuition to continue to be dedicated to strengthening career services.

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