Data transparency is top-of-mind for state higher education executive officers. Presentations and conversations on collecting, visualizing, and analyzing a wide array of important data were abundant at the 2019 SHEEO Higher Education Policy Conference. Yet one critical data set was absent from these discussions: First Destination, or Career Outcome Data.
Collecting First Destination or Career Outcome Data, which assesses the career outcomes of alumni 6 months from graduation, has become standard practice across institutions of higher education of all sizes and profiles. NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, developed a standardized First Destination survey that has been ubiquitous in career services offices throughout the country for years. This means that Career Outcome Data is already in a standard format across nearly all institutions, making it a perfect tool for state leaders, policy makers, students, and families to compare institutions at the state level.
The benefits of aggregating and publicly presenting easily accessible and digestible Career Outcome Data at the state level are manifold, and include:
- Informing student enrollment decisions
86% of currently enrolled students said getting a job was a critical factor in their decision to enroll in college (Strada-Gallup Student Satisfaction Survey 2018). As questions about the value of higher education proliferate in public discourse, prospective students and their families are looking for assurance that their investment in college will pay off. Career Outcome Data is the perfect way to demonstrate the ROI of a degree or credential. By publicly presenting Career Outcome Data at the state level, prospective students will not only find confidence in their decision to enroll, they will also be able to make more informed decisions about which institutions and programs fit with their career aspirations.
- Inspiring student pathways and increasing persistence
For the many students who enter higher education without a specific career goal in mind, Career Outcome Data can inspire career pathways and desired outcomes, which is not insignificant; students who have both a learning outcome and a career outcome in mind are 25% more likely to persist to graduation (Strada-Gallup Student Satisfaction Survey 2018). Access to Career Outcome Data allows currently enrolled students to see the top employers, locations, salaries, and satisfaction levels of students who have come before them, inspiring tangible, achievable career goals.
- Guiding policy makers and higher education leaders
Having the ability to look at detailed student employment outcomes at both the aggregate state level and at the institutional level would be invaluable in informing policies and programs from the top down. As the vast majority of institutions in each state already have standardized Career Outcome Data readily available, launching a tool that allows policy makers and higher education leaders to have such an ability is not a pipe dream, in fact, it can be accomplished quite quickly and easily, and will yield transformational results.
It is vital that every person interested in pursuing higher education have ready access to all of the data that will inform this consequential decision. State and system higher education leaders have an opportunity to greatly increase transparency and student success, by aggregating and presenting this critical data that's ready and waiting.