3 Reasons to Prioritize Quality Outcomes Data

Published on Oct 31, 2019

Updated on Dec 11, 2023

Written by Remie Verougstraete

“What are our alumni doing now that they’ve graduated?”

Seems like a simple, straightforward question. But for those working in higher education it’s one that all too often goes unanswered. 

While alumni surveys provide some information, low response rates, incomplete data, and inconsistent reporting across departments can often limit their effectiveness.

And yet, in spite of these challenges, institutions have too much to gain from quality career outcomes data to simply settle for the status quo. Instead, here are three reasons to prioritize data that captures how your grads are faring in the world of work.

Why prioritize better outcomes data?

  1. It’s an important way to measure program effectiveness – Curriculum and GPA can give us an idea of what a student learned and how well they learned it, but employment outcomes enable us to go further by seeing how that learning translates into value in the workplace. If higher education aims to equip students for life after college, then employment outcomes data should be a central part of how institutions evaluate and review program effectiveness.

  2. It’s what stakeholders want – While retention and completion rates remain major factors in qualifying for grants and satisfying accreditation requirements, recent years have seen an increased emphasis on demonstrating graduate success beyond campus as well. To keep up with these trends, institutions should prioritize outcomes data that includes employment details like career progression, current job title, and salary. This kind of alumni data can also equip your institution to engage prospective donors with compelling evidence of your students’ success and your programs’ value.

  3. It helps you strategically engage with alumni – When outcomes data includes information like your alumni’s current industry, employer, and job title, it opens up new possibilities for targeted outreach. For example, you might discover that a biology alum is now a junior scientist at a local biotech firm. This could be the ideal candidate to participate in a curriculum advisory board, speak to your first-year biology students, or be the face of the new biotech facility capital campaign. The opportunities for meaningful engagement are many, but it all starts with understanding your alumni’s employment outcomes.

A better way to track alumni outcomes

For institutions that embrace the value of in-depth career outcomes data but are frustrated by traditional methods of trying to collect it, Lightcast's Alumni Pathways service provides a refreshing alternative. Alumni Pathways matches your student records with Lightcast's database of over 120 million professional profiles, aggregated from the open web. The result gives colleges and universities the ability to analyze alumni outcomes for any academic sub-unit (college, department, major, etc.) and cohort. 

Lightcast's team of economists and data scientists can also provide further analysis to answer questions that are of specific interest to college leadership. For example, custom reports can enable you to:

  • Go beyond most-recent job analysis by tracing alumni’s career trajectory, from education through job history.

  • Compare alumni career outcomes across institutional cohorts, including gender, race/ethnicity, veteran status, graduation year, and more.

  • Highlight your competitive advantage by benchmarking your alumni against peer institutions in your region or national averages.

What next?

Explore 6 ways to use alumni outcomes data, from alumni and stakeholder engagement, to program review and career advising.

If you have questions or would like to start tracking your students' career pathways, please let us know. We’d love to hear about the work you’re doing and explore how our data can help!

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