Higher education provides a person with opportunities to succeed in today's global economy. Colleges and university have a major role in creating a quality workforce. According to O'Banion (2011), colleges and universities hone a student's critical thinking skills in order to solve problems, especially in the workplace. They prepare students for different economic sectors offering various programs, which give them the skills and knowledge they need to stay and progress in the labor market. They are referred as the locus of the generation of knowledge (O'Neil, 1997). However, the extent to which graduates of programs in higher education are actually prepared to enter the workforce or "Work-Ready" when they graduate still remains an issue today. This is even a concern with completers of graduate programs. According to Moxley, Najor-Durack, and Dumbrigue (2001, p.123), "students come into post-secondary and higher education perhaps more with vocation, profession and career in mind than academic matters".
There has never been a time when education is more important than it is today. In fact, the U.S institutions of higher education have been called upon to provide students who graduate the skills they need to compete on the global market with their counterparts in other high performing nations (Kirwan, Cantor, Cordova, and Broad, 2005). The quality of a labor-force is decisive for productivity growth (Stadler, 2002). Higher education must offer programs that make a difference for labor market outcomes and "keep pace with changes in the global economy and changes in the innovation process" (QS Asia News Network, 2018, p.3). Institutions of Higher education must assure that their programs are relevant and can help students improve social cohesion, productivity, and growth (QS Asia News Network, 2018). Innovation and productivity improvement are necessary for prosperity to grow globally (Porter and Rivkin, 2012).
This constant growth in higher education in the United States is believed by some to be a major factor in the development of higher education in the U.S. as the best colleges and universities in the world. Looking at World University Rankings 2019, 7 out of the top 10 world best ranking universities are U.S. universities (The Times Higher Education, 2018). The U.S. is viewed as the first choice destination for many international students because of its quality of education, its open labor market, and the hospitality of the American People (Pew Research Center, 2018, OECD, 2016). In fact, the U.S. currently provides higher education to more international students (n = 1.1 million) than any other country in the world (Zong & Batalova, 2018).
The motive for internationalization programs in higher education is twofold: financial and academic. Some colleges and universities encounter financial problems and recruit international students to earn profits by charging high fees while others enter the international market because they wish to increase research and knowledge capacity and to increase cultural understanding (Knight, 2006). International students provide research and teaching services for modest compensation-an estimated 12 billion dollars to the U.S. economy, for example (Davis, 2003).
However, some colleges and universities are not fully prepared to "engage and support" these international students so that they receive an equivalent higher education experience to that received by domestic students (Choudaha, 2016). Many international students have felt that their actual experience on U.S. campuses are different from the experience they expected prior to enrollment (Choudaha & Schulmann, 2014). International students deserve a fair and equal treatment. One way to assess this would be to compare the level of "Work-Readiness" among international students who complete a program with that of domestic students who complete a program in the same university. Completers of graduate level programs were used in this study to maximize the opportunity for both groups of students (international and domestic) to achieve "Work-Readiness."
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The primary purpose of this study was to compare graduate students at a Research University (RU/UH) in the southern region of the U.S. on their perceived work-readiness and selected academic characteristics by whether or not they were a U.S. citizen.