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Using Job Placement Data in the College Search Process

Every parent of a college bound student wants to know the return on investment (ROI) of a college education. Every student should be seeking that information, as well. One method of understanding ROI is to review the success of its recent graduates. Some of these primary success metrics include job placement results, graduate school enrollment, and salaries earned.

college return on investment

In the 2016 TeensTalk® national study, high school students indicated that the success of a college’s graduates was rated 3.77 (out of 5) in terms of importance when considering where to enroll in college.

This post will highlight two primary places to find graduates’ success data: college placement results and the federal College Scorecard.

1. College Placement Results (Job Placement/Post-Graduate Outcomes Data and Reports)

Most colleges and universities collect data about their recent graduates and present the results publicly. Typically, information is presented as a PDF report or as part of an infographics website. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • When reviewing the data, look to see how old it is. The most recent data should be from the last 1-2 years.
  • Pay most attention to the “employed full time” percentage as that tells you the true employment rate.
  • Some schools will use the terminology, “Actively engaged” in calculating their placement percentage, but that typically includes full-time employment, part-time employment, continuing education, military service, and volunteering full time. I don’t know about you, but I wanted a full-time job when I graduated! That’s the number that really matters!
  • Dig deep to see if you can locate information by a particular major. That will allow you to see the outcomes of graduates in a major you are considering.
  • Be sure to look at the response rate they received by their graduates. You can have greater confidence in the data if the response rate is closer to 100% than it is to 50%.

Here are Some Examples:

  • Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania offers a comprehensive website that showcases where their graduates have enrolled in graduate school, and where they are working and the type of role they hold.
  • Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, Indiana offers a drill-down website, inclusive of salary information by geographic region.
  • Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan offers a 233-page Post-Graduation Activity Report, which includes breakdowns by college and major.

2. Federal College Scorecard Website

The College Scorecard website from the U.S. Department of Education reports the average earnings of all federal financial aid recipients who started as freshmen in certain colleges.

“Salary After Attending” is one of the three main data elements provided on this site. Each college’s salary is presented as compared to the national median. The benefit of this tool is that you can compare "salary after attending" for many schools to see how they are similar or different.

Questions to Ask Colleges/Universities

When researching colleges and universities, ask them these questions:

  • What percentage of your graduates from last year are employed full-time?
  • What was the response rate of your survey of graduates?
  • What is the average salary of your graduates from the last year who are employed full-time?
  • What graduate schools do your graduates enroll at when completing their undergraduate degrees?

By using college placement results and the federal College Scorecard, you can begin to further evaluate colleges and universities on your list for consideration. This type of data can help you finalize the list where you want to apply. Keep in mind that in just 4-6 years your salary and placement data will be a part of these data sets!


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Tagged: college search, ROI