A Comparison of University of Alabama and Illinois State University

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The University of Alabama and Illinois State University are two well-known public universities who generate thousands of graduates each year. While the two universities vary in size and location, they are accredited just like any other institution. Accreditation is very important because it helps verify that an institution is meeting the acceptable standards of quality. There are various accrediting agencies around the world that develop these criteria as well as assess that each university is meeting those set standards. It is very important for these agencies to ensure universities will produce career ready graduates.

Career preparedness is one of the most important developments a student goes through during their college experience. Employers, when looking at recent college graduates, are looking to ensure the student received a well-rounded classroom experience as well as key career and life related skills. In addition to hands-on work experience through internships, practicums, and work studies, they want to ensure the student has learned critical thinking, problem solving, public speaking, and cultural competency skills that will translate into the workplace. Not only will these skills be transferable when going through interviews, they also are vital in your day to day working environment.

University of Alabama

The University of Alabama received its accreditation from The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, also known as SACSCOC. Through the accrediting process, schools must design a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which is a method used to assess how an institution is carrying out and improving student learning outcomes in accordance to the university’s mission.

The University of Alabama has developed a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), known as Learning in Action, which focuses on improving students’ real-world problem-solving skills and their ability to connect academic knowledge to real-world context and situations. This focus was derived from the university’s vision of becoming, “the university of choice for the best and brightest students in Alabama and a university of choice for all students who seek exceptional educational opportunities.” (“The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges”, 2015). With each plan, a university must show how they will assess the QEP’s outcomes. The University of Alabama’s assessment plan has many parts. Students take a baseline assessment early on as well as complete pre, mid, and post-semester reflection assessments. In addition, faculty complete direct assessments of the student’s outcomes, through survey’s taken by students, as well as qualitative data obtained by students, faculty, and employer focus groups. Each of these forms of assessment come together to provide comprehensive data for evaluating the university’s QEP on Learning in Action.

As part of the University of Alabama’s Learning in Action plan, they offer students an Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO) which is an “in-depth, typically semester long, field experience related to one’s academic program of study that engages the student in the application of classroom learning to real-world problem solving under supervision of an experienced practitioner with structured opportunities for learning from that experience.” (“The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges”, 2015). This is what most would compare to a work study, practicum, or internship course.

The Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO) isn’t the only method and assessable program for career preparedness at the University of Alabama. They also have a Career Center which offers various resources tailored to each of their students. Students have the opportunity to not only attend programs/workshops or career fairs but they also have a career consultant that will work with them one-on-one to discover their career goals as well as set them on a path to accomplish it. Through your career consultant, you have the opportunity to have informational interviews or job shadow experience with professionals in your field. What a better way to see if that is the field you want to work in, then talking to or shadowing a professional. Not only do your career consultants connect you with an industry professional, they also provide you with pre-guiding and post follow up assignments to ensure you get the most out of the experience.

Each year, the Career Center surveys students who have used their services in some way during their time at University of Alabama. Of the 6 students who responded, 95% agreed or strongly agreed that their career consultant was knowledgeable and professional. They have seen 7,209 appointments and 4,657 individual clients. In the Career Centers recent annual report, they stated that 87% of their recent graduates reported positive career outcomes, meaning they received full or part time employment, are continuing their education, or have joined military/volunteer services. These numbers would not be as high if the University of Alabama was not as dedicated to ensuring students are career ready. By having a wide variety of programs or services, any student can find something that accommodates their career goal at any given time in their college journey.

Illinois State University

Illinois State University is accredited by an independent corporation known as the Higher Learning Commission. They accredit in 19 different states located in the North Central region. Illinois State University is committed to preparing students to be “globally engaged citizens who seek knowledge, appreciate diversity, think critically, communicate effectively, act responsibly, and work collaboratively.” (“General Education at Illinois State University”, 2014). Faculty panels are used as a direct measure of assessment as well as Institutional Artifact Portfolios (IAP) at the University level. IAPs, which is student work collected from General Education courses, is used to review how students are accomplishing the specific learning outcomes assigned to that course. In addition, students who are seniors, are administered exit surveys in which they are to complete as close to graduation as possible. The survey contains questions relating to how General Education requirements prepared students for their prospective careers.

At Illinois State University, access to career development and readiness tools varies based on their major. “Preparing students for professional and career-related pursuits is not systematic across departments and schools.” (“Findings and Recommendations”, 2017). Just like most large colleges and universities, Illinois State has a Career Center which is broken up into two structured areas: employer relations and services to students and alumni. This past year, the Career Center has generated about 24,000 touch points through a variety of programs and services. Most of these students are those who are career ready and ready for graduation. In a survey completed, thirty percent of the students were freshman and sophomores with fewer than five percent being graduate students. Unfortunately, Illinois State does not do a great job at attaining direct assessment data, or at least publishing it. Stating touchpoints does not qualify what exactly those touchpoints are nor the impact one may have on a student. Having 24,000 touchpoints as a quantifier sounds like a lot but in reality, they do a poor job assessing what is a touchpoint.

Professional Career Center staff have multiple roles within their jobs. They are in charge of counseling, advising, and coaching students as well as handling all of the programing. Recently, a four-year career planning guide was established to show students the best practices for becoming career ready. The largest critique on the program was that their needs to be more collaboration with various campus constituents to provide a more holistic and institutional view of career development and readiness. It is more than just going to workshops and career fairs, although in recent years the amount of programing events offered has increased immensely. Once again, this is a data point that is assessed, but in the end, what does it really mean. The Career Center has recently added Cultural Career Network events which are used for networking with a diverse group of companies as well as providing students free resume paper, business cards, access to Skype and private interview rooms.

Illinois State University has a huge alumni base that is committed to helping their career readiness program grow from a college-based model to an industry-career cluster approach. In the recent year, alumni approached the University Advancement staff about becoming more involved and engaged through hiring students at their companies, offering mentorship/job shadowing programs, as well as volunteering as guest speakers. Unfortunately, this involvement has not taken off as of recently but there is hope for the upcoming years. According to university assessment, through the University Academics and Career Council, “the paucity of data on career outcomes for alumni continues to be an issue that needs to be address across the University.” (“Findings and Recommendations”, 2017).


The Career Centers at the University of Alabama and Illinois State University offer students a multitude of programing events throughout the year. This ranges from your large-scale career fairs to small resume/cover letter clinics. Alabama’s program has been very successful throughout the years which can be a result of the University putting a lot of effort and resources into career preparedness. Having the support for your program at the University level makes all of the difference as you can see from the issues faced by Illinois State University. Having buy in from individual colleges and majors makes a huge difference. Through Alabama’s ELO program, practical work experience is built into each student’s curriculum.

Students who are very career driven have the opportunity to receive one on one attention from a career consultant. At Illinois, they really don’t have the staff to give individualized attention to a large group of students, as Alabama does. Interesting enough, Illinois does have a huge buy in from the alumni. It’s very unique that they have an alumni base asking to be more involved in career preparedness. If the University was to invest in a better alumni involvement program, their Career Center ratings could definitely improve. This would require very little monetary investment and you know the alum would be dedicated to helping students. The fact that the University is publicly announcing their struggle, means the school collectively needs to focus on how to better prepare their graduates. Not only is this through adding resources but also better assessing the current options as well as statistics on current graduates. Career preparedness can’t continue to be something focused on by some schools and not a majority of the others. Buy in must be unanimous across all disciplines.

As we start to see a decline in career readiness, Alabama should continue to offer practical opportunities that are required for students no matter their major. Having a degree will no longer land you your dream job. Having skills learned through college education as well as work experience is so important. Illinois needs to invest in having more touchpoints with students in a more intimate setting. This can be accomplished not only through a career advisor but also through the use of alumni as student mentors. There isn’t a more relatable person than someone who was in their position in years past.

Cite this paper

A Comparison of University of Alabama and Illinois State University. (2021, Apr 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/a-comparison-of-university-of-alabama-and-illinois-state-university/



Is the University of Alabama a prestigious school?
Yes, the University of Alabama is considered a prestigious school, with a strong reputation for academic excellence and a high level of student achievement. It is consistently ranked among the top universities in the United States.
Is University of Illinois a top 10 school?
Yes, University of Illinois is a top 10 school. It is ranked as the 7th best public university in the United States by U.S. News and World Report.
What is Alabama ranked as a college?
As of 2019, Alabama is ranked as the 103rd best college in the United States by Niche.
Which University is better in Illinois?
Best universities in Illinois 2022 US College Rank 2022 Illinois Rank 2022 University =9 1 Northwestern University 14 2 The University of Chicago =45 3 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 91 4 University of Illinois at Chicago 29 more rows
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