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Voice of the graduate

By André Dua

College-graduation rates in the United States—once the envy of the world—have been lagging in recent years.

Everyone knows education is the path to individual and national prosperity in an era of global competition. Yet US educational attainment, once the envy of the world, has been flagging in recent years—and concerns about the value and efficacy of higher education in particular are making headlines and finding a place on both political parties’ reform agendas. While as recently as 1995 the United States was one of the world leaders in college-graduation rates, the country has since slipped to 12th among industrialized nations.

McKinsey partnered with Chegg Inc. to conduct a survey that gauges the attitudes of more than 4,900 recent graduates on a range of issues. The mix included attendees of four-year and two-year private and public colleges, as well as vocational and for-profit institutions. The survey primarily focused on students who graduated between 2009 and 2012, though some students still working toward their degrees were surveyed as well.

This report will review eight key findings from the research on student attitudes, place these findings in context, and discuss implications. In each case, the report also suggests questions raised by those findings for educators and other stakeholders to consider. The report concludes by sketching the beginnings of an agenda for addressing the concerns that graduates raise.

Download the full report on which this article is based, Voice of the graduate (PDF–3.7MB).

About the author(s)

André Dua is a director in McKinsey’s New York office.
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