Colleges Are Tested By Push To Prove Graduates’ Career Success
Career College Central summary:
College admissions officers trumpet graduates' success in finding well-paying jobs. But the schools often have a hard time getting solid proof. Boiling down employment outcomes to a single metric isn't easy, many college officials say, since hurdles stand in the way of gathering meaningful figures and conveying them. Others say they are leery of tying the nuances of educational success to dollar figures.
But with student-loan debt outstanding hitting a record $1.1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the issue of quantifying graduate success has become increasingly important as colleges come under pressure to prove the education they provide is worth the investment. Federal and state governments are taking steps of their own to measure the value of higher education, but the efforts are piecemeal. The Higher Education Opportunity Act bars the federal government from creating a nationwide database of student records, with opponents citing privacy and other concerns.
The U.S. Education Department is weighing options for a new college rating system, which could include graduate employment information. And in January, Sens. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) and Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) laid out a plan tying eligibility for federal student aid to, among other things, measures of affordability and value. Meanwhile, College Measures, a partnership between the American Institutes for Research and Matrix Knowledge, has helped seven states, including Texas, Florida and Virginia, tie workforce and student record information together to create websites showing employment statistics for graduates. These initiatives face a large obstacle: schools themselves, many of which oppose efforts to use employment data to quantify education success.
In January, the National Association of Colleges and Employers released a new set of standards for the reports that career-services offices compile on graduates' first jobs and graduate-school destinations, including a goal of having verifiable data on 65% of a graduating class. The average response rate for member schools is 48%, according to a recent NACE report. There has been "great inconsistency" in how outcomes are reported, including disagreement on how to define "employed," said Manny Contomanolis, associate vice president and director of the career-services office at Rochester Institute of Technology and the leader of the NACE standards effort.
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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
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