Occupational Outcomes for College Graduates
-Call to Action (Why We're Signing)-
On behalf of short-term and long-term under- and unemployed college graduates throughout the United States, I hereby request U.S. President Obama declare an Executive Order necessitating universities measure and disclose actual occupational outcomes of the prior year's alumni for each current year in which Title IV funding is received.
We need federal action because despite selected cuts to higher education in some states, most state legislatures are dominated by the most elite alumni of the very same universities I'm asking them to regulate.
I'm calling for an Executive Order because President Obama has shown a willingness to do what he feels is best for the national welfare, irrespective of congressional logrolling or Department of Education hand-wringing regarding educational subsidies.
(Although, if he wishes to avoid such an Executive Order, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan may unilaterally declare, via the federal rulemaking process, these occupational outcomes reporting requirements for institutions receiving Title IV funding.)
The data collection mechanism utilized must provide a valid measurement of realized occupational outcomes among reasonably recent alumni for each campus, specifically independent from any exiting-senior surveys potentially or already conducted by these institutions of higher education.
"Realized occupational outcomes" should be operationalized as the median hours worked, median income, and FLSA-exempt employee, non-exempt employee, self-employed, or unemployed status of job held (or absence of work, in the last case).
The term "reasonably recent" should be understood to mean at least 12 months after degree conferral.
This time horizon allows measurement of graduates' current realized value in the labor market, as opposed to the error-prone self-assessment of forward-looking job intentions that plagues exiting-senior surveys.
The 12-months-after standard also prevents tabulation of end-of-program student jobs and internships that disappear the summer after graduation.
Summer-of-graduation studies are prone to respondents over-extrapolating the market value of fleeting student placements beyond the temporary nature of such engagements when predicting future outcomes or reporting current employment status, i.e. employed as a student but not for long.
The realized occupational outcomes, as itemized above, should be reported at a uniform benchmark of 12 months following degree conferral for each graduating cohort. This ensures comparison of equal contention times is possible when student-consumers and their parent-guardians are comparing likelihood of earning a certain minimum income or job status from earning a particular credential from a specific institution.
Although it is possible for 18-month-after outcomes to be reported alongside 12-month-after outcomes, such as data for December-before-last's grads alongside those from prior May's graduates, this type of comparison is supplemental at best because it does not meet the requirement to disclose occupational outcomes in time-controlled terms of their labor participation and value approximately 12 months after degree conferral.
This emphasis on gathering post-hoc data from a snapshot of labor market value literally experienced is the most substantive enhancement over an exiting-senior survey.
Whereas the former involves current data about recent and ongoing jobs market responses (market assessments) to one's post-degree presence, the latter relies upon forward-looking statements of personally estimated, (non-market-assessed) labor value.
So while exiting-senior surveys need not be forbidden, they will not qualify for meeting the occupational outcomes reporting requirements described herein. Any such measures are supplementary, at best, to the desired centerpiece study of occupational outcomes attained among the aggregate of prior-year graduates, i.e. the labor market's responses to degree holders who've had at least a year to contend for work with their credential.
Annual publication of occupational outcomes study results must be made by each campus receiving Title IV funds. The timing of this report must be at least 3 months prior to the start of the autumn semester for the following year, to allow student-consumers and their parent-guardians adequate time to compare and contrast these outcomes among schools.
Sample size should be adequately large sample -- if not the entire population -- of each one-year-since-graduated cohort. The minimum sample size should comprise either 25 percent of a university's graduates from each college or school therein; or 100 students from each of the same, whichever is less.
Survey distribution method should entail contacting the graduate one year after graduating. Because the Department of Enrollment Services (whether through the Registrar, Bursar, or other office) already collects each student's permanent address, it should be a minor feat to either mail paper questionnaires to these addresses, preferably independently of alumni donation solicitations.
To minimize the carbon footprint of survey administration, the campus may elect to alert each exiting senior that he or she must provide the Department of Enrollment Services (or designated department) with a valid non-school (permanent) email address by which to receive the invitation to the online occupational outcomes questionnaire, as the school-provided email address typically expires within 3 to 6 months following degree conferral.
Those who technically do not graduate until completing a summer session should be counted as part of the May graduation cohort of that year; and those who do not graduate until completing a winterim session in January should be counted as part of the prior year's December graduation cohort. These categorizations are irrespective of whether or not the new graduates "walk the stage" prior to degree conferral.
Per this Executive Order, all institutions receiving Title IV funding must partake in such a study to receive this aid in subsequent years.
This lawful exercise of executive privilege shall ensure student-consumers and their parent-guardians have access to information showing how well or poorly received each campus' recent alumni tend to be.
-Background Information (Further Justification)-
Involuntarily jobless 4 years after conferral of a master's degree in public administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and temping for the past year at manual labor through a staffing agency: To what extent does my example provide an archetype of the New Grad?
Until universities agree to monitor occupational outcomes of graduates at least a year after degree conferral, the career services and public relations departments shall continue speaking in terms of national statistics and local speculation.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports earnings of all working-age college graduates, such that breaking down earnings by younger grads is impossible with the public BLS tools. Even if this granular analysis were implemented, it would be marginally useful until further segmented by degree-conferring institution of each survey respondent.
Campus speculation about alumni employability amounts to "exiting senior surveys," a forward-looking assessment in which grads-to-be are polled, most typically during the euphoria of graduation week, about their self-assessment of how well received they will be by employers.
The big problem is: Perception often belies reality!
As mentioned, the various support systems in a college environment lead many students to believe they are more capable and in-demand than they truly are.
So when asked about their beliefs at being able to succeed, most will profess confidence in their academic credentials and training -- until being shut down in the labor market, after which point the exiting senior survey has long been closed to them.
This lack of valid measurement of realized occupational outcomes for each campus is why the state legislatures should pass laws requiring the collection of an adequately large sample -- if not the entire population -- of each one-year-since-graduated cohort and reporting the median hours worked, median income, and FLSA-exempt or non-exempt status of job held (or unemployment / self-employment, as the case might be).
All these measures are of vital importance for the student-consumers, who crave more information when deciding among colleges or even whether to decline the university experience.
Universities might potentially see better recruitment and retention outcomes for minority students and other "under-represented populations" -- those who tend to be more focused on education as a financial investment -- when they finally report these alumni statistics.
Needless to say, my visibility has done the so-called "premier urban university" no favors, no matter how many officials the UW System sends on the road to cheerlead for more university funding.
If state universities were willing to put their money where their mouth is, they would study and publicly report occupational outcomes of all who respond to an aggregate survey of the prior year's grads.
Of course, they won't do so willingly -- hence, the need for our Commander-in-Chief to commandeer the conditions under which they receive Title IV funding. Such modest disruption will yield more benefit than cost by preventing wasteful economic transactions, thereby strengthening us into a more just and equitable society.
- Arne Duncan
Occupational Outcomes for College Graduates
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