By JENNIFER MERRITT
U.S. companies largely favor graduates of big state universities over Ivy League and other elite liberal-arts schools when hiring to fill entry-level jobs, a Wall Street Journal study found.
In the study—which surveyed 479 of the largest public and private companies, nonprofits and government agencies—Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ranked as top picks for graduates best prepared and most able to succeed.
Of the top 25 schools as rated by these employers, 19 were public, one was Ivy League (Cornell University) and the rest were private, including Carnegie Mellon and University of Notre Dame.
The Journal research represents a systematic effort to assess colleges by surveying employers’ recruiters—who decide where to seek out new hires—instead of relying primarily on measures such as student test scores, college admission rates or graduates’ starting salaries. As a group, the survey participants hired more than 43,000 new graduates in the past year.
The recruiters’ perceptions matter all the more given that employers today are visiting fewer schools, partly due to the weak economy. Instead of casting a wide net, the Journal found, big employers are focusing more intently on nearby or strategically located research institutions with whom they can forge deeper partnerships with faculty.
The Journal study didn’t examine smaller companies because they generally don’t interact with as many colleges. In addition, the survey focused on hiring students with bachelor’s as opposed to graduate degrees.
The research highlighted a split in perception about state and private schools. Recruiters who named an Ivy League or elite liberal-arts school as a top pick say they prize their graduates’ intellect and cachet among clients, as well as “soft skills” like critical thinking and communication. But many companies said they need people with practical skills to serve as operations managers, product developers, business analysts and engineers. For those employees—the bulk of their work force—they turn to state institutions or other private schools offering that.
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