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Universities work to track graduates and their jobs

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 10:57 a.m. CST

DAYTON, Ohio (MCT) — College students invest years and potentially thousands of dollars into their education, so more of them are asking an important question: Will this degree lead to a job?

Amid horror stories of unemployed or underemployed recent college graduates and crushing student loan debt, colleges and universities have turned more attention to answering that question with hard data to prove their alumni are finding work.

“What’s most important is that we can answer the questions — with documented data — that are always top of mind for parents and students, and increasingly government,” said Mike Goldman, director of career services at Miami University in Ohio. “When I graduate, will I get a job? Will I get into graduate school or professional school? Will I be able to pay off my student loans, if I have any?”

Miami went further this year than ever to track down their recent graduates, and found 91 percent of them were employed or in graduate school, and nearly one-third had a starting salary between $50,000 and $60,000.

The University of Dayton and Wittenberg University, in Ohio, are even more candid: they share graduates’ job titles and employers — whether a student used their political science major to become a campaign manager or ended up a barista with an international studies degree.

“We believe in transparency,” said Jason Eckert, director of career services at the University of Dayton.

“It’s to our advantage if our students are doing well to talk about those things,” he said. “Clearly you’re going to see some examples that weren’t tremendous … but I’d rather be transparent.”

For now, colleges are not required to report the types of jobs or salaries of new alumni, but the federal government is asking for more information.

The average earning of graduates who borrowed federal student loans will soon be added to the College Scorecard.

“There is a push nationally for colleges to become more and more accountable for the outcomes of graduates,” Eckert said. “Part of that has to do with the really sincere problem of college student debt. Students are increasingly asking. ‘What is the return on investment?’”

Americans owe more than $1 trillion in student loans, and Ohio’s graduates in 2012 who borrowed took out an average $29,000, according to the Project on Student Debt.

Samantha Luebbers, who graduates from Miami in May with a double major in biomedical and mechanical engineering, already accepted a job offer from a company she met during a campus career fair. She said Miami’s 91 percent success rate is reassuring to students.

“It’s really important because you go to school to get a job,” the Cincinnati native said. “A lot of undergraduates are worried about the market right now, so when you see something like that, it’s really comforting because you think you have a shot.”

Miami found 3.4 percent of recent graduates were unemployed by fall 2013 if they graduated between August 2012 and May 2013.

About 75 percent were employed or had received a job offer and nearly 19 percent were enrolled in graduate school. At the time of graduation, about 21 percent of students said they did not intend to seek immediate employment, according to Miami.

Miami this year called 2,000 graduates, and used information from LinkedIn profiles, a pre-graduation survey, Miami’s own data system and the National Student Clearinghouse to compile a much clearer picture of where graduated landed.

It can be difficult to track students after they leave campus, the colleges say.

Only 40 percent of University of Dayton graduates had responded to a survey when the school started making phone calls about it, Eckert said. Eventually, they found 96 percent of students were either working, in graduate school or in a service program within six months of graduating in spring or summer 2013.

Nationally, 87 percent of graduates from 2011 were employed or in graduate school six months after graduation, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. About 59 percent were employed six to eight months after graduation, according to NACE.

Eckert said those graduates who do not have a job when contacted can receive help from the university.

Clark State Community College surveys graduates three to nine months after they leave school, and one of questions asked is if they feel they were prepared to work in their field. The college also contacts employers to ask whether the students were ready for work, said Kathy Wilcox, dean of Health, Human and Public Service.

“It’s another way to make sure our programs are doing what they’re supposed to do,” she said.

The information is used internally and when individual programs apply for accreditation. It is also shared with students who ask, she said.

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©2014 Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

MCT Information Services

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