NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Colleges Try to Measure Employment Success

March 26, 2014

As outstanding student-loan debt hits a record-high $1.1 trillion, colleges are struggling to prove that their education is worth the price. They are finding, however, that getting solid proof is somewhat difficult, says the Wall Street Journal.

There have been some federal efforts to look at affordability and outcomes. The Department of Education is looking at making a new college ratings system, but the Higher Education Opportunity Act does not allow the government to create a nationwide database of student records. Senators Chris Murphy and Brian Schatz recently released a plan that would make federal student aid eligibility dependent on college affordability and values measures.

Some states have managed to gather such information.

  • College Measures, a partnership between American Institutes for Research and Matrix Knowledge, has helped Texas, Florida and Virginia create Web sites that show graduate employment statistics.
  • Some schools, however, are opposed to the use of employment data to measure the success of their education, saying that a person's salary is not necessarily the result of his school or major.

Schools have seen, however, how positive employment numbers can lure in students.

  • Iona College says on its website that 93 percent of its graduates have entered the workforce or graduate school within six months of graduation.
  • It fails to note that the 93 percent is based only on responses from 17 percent of 743 graduates from 2011, though Iona says the sample is a valid one.
  • According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average response rate for schools on graduates' first jobs is 48 percent.

Mark Schneider, president of College Measures, says that alumni polls are not scientifically sound and that alumni with positive news to report on the job front are more likely to respond to surveys.

Source: Melissa Korn, "Colleges Are Tested by Push to Prove Graduates' Career Success," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2014.


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