By Dominique “Domy” Raymond, Senior Program Director, National Engagement & Philanthropy at USA Funds
As a friend in higher education recently noted, many, if not most, campuses have a “Mr. Potato Head” approach to career advising and job placement services, which often appear to be last-minute, bolt-on activities for students. But, are there ways to seamlessly align career advising throughout a student’s college experience? What career advising and outcomes data do schools need to collect and integrate into their academic programs as well as their career services?
As shown in the accompanying charts, the vast majority of colleges and universities participating in federal Title IV financial aid programs offer academic/career counseling services and/or job placement services. The availability of these services varies widely by type of institution. For example, virtually 100 percent of public, four-year universities offer career counseling services, and nine out of 10 offer job placement services for graduates. Among private, non-profit four-year schools, more than 95 percent provide career counselors, but only 70 percent offer job placement services for their alumni and soon-to-be alumni. Career counseling and job placement assistance is less widely available at two-year schools.
Research strongly suggests a need for schools to fully and more effectively integrate services into their academic programs. Studies by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and Workforce and ACT support the importance of integrating career advising into a student’s program of study, because it allows students to make informed choices when selecting their majors. Clearly, some majors lead to better paying jobs, both in the short and long run. What’s more, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only about half (47 percent) of 2014 college graduates regularly availed themselves of their schools’ career and job placement services. A 2012 NACE benchmarking survey found that the ratio of students to counselors averaged 1,645 to 1. At large universities with at least 20,000 students, the ratio is nearly 6,000 students per counselor.
Limited staffing resources do not have to constrain a school’s career counseling capabilities. Better collection and use of data can help schools offer a more efficient and more holistic approach to informing a student’s academic and career choices. Indiana University, for example, has created a career services council, which, in turn, has established metrics regarding student touch points, including career advising and coaching services, internships, and, ultimately, post-school employment outcomes. The council currently is collecting post-graduate outcomes for the Class of 2015, including full- and part-time employment, military service, continuing job search, and post-baccalaureate education. The resulting data support IU’s Career and Academic Program Exploration, a service that guides students through the process of choosing an appropriate academic or career path and determining the next steps in the career development process.
On a larger scale, NACE conducted a First Destinations Survey for the Class of 2014. The organization received responses from 190 campus career centers, which detailed the results for their bachelor’s degree recipients and from 17 institutions offering associate degrees. Highlights from the survey’s findings include:
- More than half of 175,000 bachelor’s degree graduates were employed full time.
- Those earning degrees in career-oriented majors were most likely to be employed full time, while graduates in the liberal arts and sciences were most likely to aim for a place in graduate or professional school.
- Overall, the median starting salary was $45,478.
- Approximately 14 percent were still seeking employment.
- 16.4 percent were continuing their education, and nearly 4 percent were planning to pursue post-baccalaureate studies.
The NACE survey data and outcomes data collected by individual schools can help facilitate campus discussions on using predictive analytics to integrate academic and career advising. Through the use of predictive analytics and proactive advising interventions, Georgia State University has been able to increase semester-to-semester retention rates by 5 percent and reduce the average time-to-degree by almost half a semester. This means that 1,200 more students are staying in school every year. Better yet, Georgia State’s graduating Class of 2014 saved $10 million in tuition and fees compared to their predecessors in the Class of 2013.
The pioneering work at IU, Georgia State and other schools provide excellent data models and useful resources for colleges and universities seeking to move career advising from an edge-of-campus afterthought to a key player in their student success strategies.