>>Julia Cole Hulsey, Staff Writer

Between the economy’s delayed pick up and the number of competitors, many graduates are buried in debt with precious few job prospects.

A former Reagan administration official recently spoke with U.S. News about what prospective students should be thinking about, what they get for their dollars and why a bachelor’s degree is no longer synonymous with success.  Based on a recent survey, USA Today reported a college degree is no longer enough “ammunition” for a student entering the job force.

A substantial skill gap exists between students’ self-assessed readiness for the workforce and the skills employers actually expect, according to Chegg, the Student Hub and the Harris Interactive.

“The speed at which things are changing is much faster than institutions are able to change,” said Dan Rosensweig, president and CEO of Chegg.

One study for a New York Times sponsored book interviewed managers and employers, finding only 16 percent said the people they hire are ready for the workforce.

Chegg’s study was a survey of 2,001 students, ages 18 to 24, who were either in college or had recently graduated.  Out of 1,000 hiring managers, fewer than two in five found them prepared for a job in their fields of study. In contrast, half the students surveyed felt they were job-ready at graduation.

The study found that students were lacking skills organization, leadership, personal finance and street smarts.

Career coaching service said technology becomes disruptive to existing jobs and new jobs creation.  “Instead of preparing our students for a particular job or career that would show more predictable and linear growth, they need to learn skills so they can adapt to whatever their job becomes,” said Priority Candidates President, Lesley Mitler.

The responsibility for this falls upon universities to modernize their curriculums to fit the continual changes in the types of skills employees need, according to Rosensweig.  “This is fixable fast,” Rosensweig said. “Institutions have a role to update their curriculum. This generation speaks a whole different language and communicates differently.”

Such data hasn’t surprised some career experts.

“At its core, college prepares you to learn, to be enthusiastic about learning, to manage your time, and to work independently or with teams to solve problems,” said Susan Davis-Ali, president of Leadhership1, a professional coaching company.  “Being successful on the job takes that and so much more.”

In 2008, 81 percent of adults thought college/higher education was a worthwhile investment.  In 2013, only 57 percent believed it is.

APSU student, Linda Sapp is one semester away from receiving a second bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing. “I think an internship is invaluable for students who want to get experience for the work setting,” said Sapp. She is currently working as a freelance writer for oDesk Corporation

There are alternatives to spending years in college looking toward uncertain employment.  Some universities are beginning to acknowledge the drive toward building a business. Drexel University is creating a school of entrepreneurship; in July, Temple University’s business school announced an open online course for teaching and broadening entrepreneurial methods.

“I have had some difficulties in job hunting since graduation,” said 2013 APSU graduate Bill Kern “I do feel that APSU did give me the knowledge I need to succeed; I just need a chance to prove it.” Kern offered advice to other students: having a job history and practical experience is important.

Northwestern University provides its students case interviews with employers and mock interviews with alumni. But Interim Director of Career Services Alice Harra said, “students should make time to educate themselves.”