Posted by: Nathaniel | June 24, 2008

Question of the week: Do colleges and society need to do more to incentivize public service and nonprofit work after college?

A student packs before leaving for a one year fellowship in Brazil

A New York Times article published on June 23 asked “Big Paycheck or Service? Students Are Put to Test.”

The article describes how many students take jobs in the financial services or management consulting industries immediately after graduation, citing reasons like salary level, security, competitiveness and notably – availability of information and clear application procedures.

Different schools are responding differently – including a Tufts program which involves loan forgiveness for students who take jobs in the social sector upon graduation.

Having recently been a student and spent the last few years designing global service and social entrepreneurship support programs for undergrads, it seems to me that the choices people make about their post-graduation plans have a lot to do with what seems possible. I think that consulting firms are succesful because they aggressively recruit. In this, Teach for America is their nonprofit doppleganger, investing huge resources to getting students. At Northwestern, its easy to feel like your options when you graduation are Bain and Company, TFA, or applying for a Fulbright scholarship.

What do others think? Do universities need to do more to help students interested in public service and the social sectors find meaningful work? What are your impressions of YOUR campuses?



  1. I think service will be a key to success for College students and students in the k-12 grades. But I also think the definition of “Service” has changed. IF its about confirming a long term goal for employment or how Teach America is set up, its not service. I believe it should be a true selfless act.

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