Student Success Defined
Make Experiential Learning a Factor in College Choice
Earning a college degree cannot be seen as the only outcome of attending college. As colleges and universities transition to meet workplace needs, the factors that contribute to a positive college experience are also changing. Experiential learning is quickly becoming a presumed component of a quality college career.
The concept of learning by doing is not new. What experiential learning adds to this idea is reflection that encourages the development of new skills, promotes curiosity and exploration, adjusts for missteps, and relates classroom theory to workplace reality. The partnering of a college education with experiential learning prepares students to swiftly assimilate into the workplace and offers industry the opportunity to integrate innovations and theories vetted on campus into business plans. It is a shared experience with mutual benefits.
Work experience has always been a resume builder. Experiential learning has become a valued asset going beyond a “job” on a college student’s resume indicating more than the ability to show up on time and complete menial tasks. It demonstrates an elevation of the academic experience to the application of knowledge and skills in a variety of settings. “Experiential approaches appear to be more effective in developing skills that employers seek, such as communication skills, the ability to work in teams, and workplace literacy.” Our members are constantly re-evaluating the college experience giving priority to new learning models and integrating them into the criteria of earning a degree.
It starts in a redefined classroom where learning has become more than a transfer of information but active engagement in processes and discussions of a topic. The lower student-faculty ratios at our colleges enhance this learning model because student remain the focal point. Experiential learning is also expanding beyond areas well-recognized for the internship and practicums designed to help students entering careers in medicine, education and social work. It is connecting learning to the workplace in a larger variety of fields and bringing new value to community service which helps students see issues in a larger social context. There is no single experiential learning model that fits all students nor all degrees so the variety of offerings is constantly growing.
Experiential learning helps industry identify talent for the workplace during college when students can adjust their course schedules to include courses relevant to their field of choice. By engaging students, industry also has an opportunity to influence curriculum to meet workforce needs. Businesses and students can use an internship to evaluate the match between candidates and careers. Expectations do not always match reality. Internships allow any gap to be identified saving time and resources when there is a disconnect. College is the time to explore and make corrections in career choices.
All 13 member institutions offer experiential learning opportunities in the form of internships, micro-internships, mentorships, or shadowing. ICUNJ is partnering with scholarship providers, program sponsors and new businesses to expand the experiential learning opportunities offered to New Jersey’s independent college students. Students should check with career offices early in their college years to gain an opportunity that fits career goals and schedule.
Through the impact of experiential learning, New Jersey can maintain its legacy of innovation and industry leadership. The independent colleges and universities will continue to be a resource for students to become educated citizens contributing to the economic, cultural, intellectual and social strengths of our communities.
 Linda H. Lewis, Carol J. Williams, Experiential Learning: Past and Present, 1994, Josey-Bass, Inc.
ICUNJ’s 13 non-profit, independent colleges and universities are an important, strategic asset within the State’s higher education system
- Provide thirteen options for students to CHOOSE college or university setting that best fits their needs – academic program offerings, size, location, culture, etc.
- Offer opportunities for students to continue education in New Jersey rather than leaving the state
- Serve diverse racial, ethnic and economic populations that match public sector and state’s diverse demographics
- Provide high quality undergraduate and graduate education in wide variety of disciplines to meet workforce demands
- Provide opportunities for valuable and important research that will help support the State’s economic growth
- Attract out-of-state and international students to offset out-migration
- Achieve results with limited taxpayer funding – approximately $120 million with over 95% directly to students through financial aid programs
- Economic impact of between $4 billion and $4.5 billion – as high as $30 to $1 return on state investment
Importance of independent colleges and universities highlighted in 2010 “Kean Commission” report
“Overall, the independent colleges and universities expand the diversity and choice afforded to New Jersey’s college students, and they have done so for a long time.”
“New Jersey’s independent colleges and universities serve an important public purpose. They annually award almost as many baccalaureate degrees and advance degrees – master’s, professional, and doctorate – as New Jersey’s three public research institutions.”
Over 63,000 students attend non-profit public mission independent colleges and universities
(Fall 2022 Data)
- “Overall, the independent colleges and universities expand the diversity and choice afforded to New Jersey’s college students, and they have done so for a long time.”
- “New Jersey’s independent colleges and universities serve an important public purpose. They annually award almost as many baccalaureate degrees and advance degrees – master’s, professional, and doctorate – as New Jersey’s three public research institutions.”