Survey reveals institutions, like UC Irvine, are putting greater effort into tracking graduates’ success and helping them continue learning through short-term programs.

track-graduate-successThe days of warmly wishing graduates farewell and good luck after four years is not a sustaining strategy for colleges and universities, says a new report. Instead, offering online programs to keep graduates coming back to the institution for continuing career education is quickly becoming higher-ed’s newest must-offer.

According to the results the Education Advisory Board (EAB)’s annual Future of Online and Professional Education Survey, improving how institutions track career success has emerged as the highest priority for senior executives of online and professional higher education programs.

In the survey, 95 percent of respondents expressed interest in better longitudinally tracking graduates’ career outcomes. Though many institutions primarily are interested in whether or not students got a job after graduating and their average salary data, there is also interest in developing more sophisticated and inclusive metrics for career success.

The EAB has been working alongside institutions to discover the best practices to communicate with students and design surveys for millennials, since simply collecting information can be a major challenge.

“I think we haven’t done a very good job at all,” said Gary Matkin, UC Irvine’s Dean of Continuing Education, Distance Learning, and Summer Session. “But it’s important to improve for several reasons. Regional accrediting agencies look for evidence that the education students are getting is valuable to them, and we want to see what third-party employers think of graduates. But it’s really important simply to get feedback and see how they’re doing – how many go on to graduate school? How soon did they get a job after graduation? What are their starting salaries? Meanwhile, are they happy? Salaries in some cases don’t mean anything. The human being is so complex; it’s hard to fairly indicate success.”

(Next page: The new ways institutions are trying to serve students beyond graduation)

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