Colleges and universities value alumni employment data. While simply having the data can be helpful, what’s more useful is gleaning insights from that data. Emsi now provides three new ways to look at alumni outcomes data: return on investment, career pathways, and benchmarking. With this information, you can fuel communication and practice across your institution—because describing alumni success is key to describing your institution’s value.
We can all agree that it’s important to measure college and university outcomes. Ideally, understanding the employment outcomes of your alumni should be an integral part of making institution-wide decisions and providing evidence of mission fulfillment.
Describing alumni success is key to describing your institution’s value.
However, the reality of collecting these outcomes is often more complex than we would like. When students graduate, they often move beyond our ability of collecting data through typical student information systems. Since it can be a considerable effort to collect, organize, share, and put alumni data to use, it’s important that these efforts become high-yield in terms of actionable insights. After all, alumni are one of your greatest assets in proving the real-world value of the educational experiences offered at your institution.
Let’s talk a little bit more about alumni data, where it comes from, what questions you can answer with it, and how it can be used across many different divisions within a college or university.
Collecting Alumni Outcomes Data
Perhaps the most common way to collect alumni data is through alumni surveys. At their best, alumni surveys are personalized and contextualized to appeal to your institution’s graduates, but they come with built-in challenges: Variable or unsatisfactory response rates. The difficulties of finding individuals based on changing email addresses or digital identities. Piecing together data collected from different sources (or even from different departments in your institution who want to know different things).
Some institutions go above and beyond the survey method, individually searching each graduate and compiling a profile for each one. This can be an effective method for smaller institutions…if you have the time, patience, and a dedicated resource. On the other hand, searching by hand is much harder to do at scale, and nearly impossible for a larger institution.
Another approach to gathering alumni data is to partner with Emsi for an Alumni Outcomes study. Emsi’s data team will match your institution’s learner records with our professional profile dataset to provide a wealth of outcomes information specific to your institution’s graduates. We’ve touched before on how alumni outcomes data can be leveraged, which can range from cultivating donor relationships to crafting stellar marketing campaigns.
The point is, however, that no matter how you choose to get your data, it’s an essential part of your decision-making toolkit. In our current educational climate, it’s critical to know where your alumni go, how they’re employed, and other information about the outcomes of your graduates.
What About Questions That Alumni Surveys Can’t Answer?
It’s relatively easy to paint a picture in broad strokes about institutional effectiveness. It’s harder to capture an adequately-detailed look at the careers of your graduates (which in turn reflect on your institution). Is a degree from your institution worth the money? How does a student’s choice of degree impact his or her career over the long term? Why should students attend your institution instead of another, comparable, one?
These questions can be tough to answer.
That’s why our team of economists and data scientists created three new reports to examine Alumni Outcomes data in different ways. Each report provides a unique lens through which to view your alumni data: return on investment, career evolution, or peer benchmarking.
Return on Investment
You no longer have to guess—now you can know the value of a degree from your institution. The ROI report measures your students’ return on their academic investment by calculating the higher earnings they will receive over their lifetime with a degree from your institution.
This report provides a streamlined visual that allows you to trace your alumni’s career trajectory over time, from the degree earned at your institution throughout their job history at the 1, 5, and 10-year marks.
Sample Pathways report—click to enlarge
By benchmarking your alumni against state and/or national averages, you can explore how your graduates compare and dial-in your institution’s competitive advantage.
With any of these reports, you’ll receive a rich bank of information and ready-to-use infographics and other deliverables that show the value, backed by data, of your institution.
Leveraging Alumni Data Across the Institution
Rich insights don’t do (or say) anything on their own. To make a difference, they must be put into action—which means sharing them with key units across your institution to inform communication and practice.
To get you started, allow us to suggest some ideas of how to leverage alumni employment outcomes data (especially ROI, pathways, or benchmarking) for maximum impact across departments and teams.
Institutional Research, Effectiveness, and Accreditation
Pair quantitative data with surveys and alumni anecdotes for a well-rounded institutional self-study
Marketing and Communications
Optimize the searchability of your academic programs, especially around career outcomes
Academic Affairs, Advising, and Career Services
Use benchmarking data to inform academic program review, assessment, or development
Create pathways to re-enrollment by developing programs that assist with common career transitions
Alumni Outreach and Advancement
Identify compelling alumni success stories to showcase in outreach publications
Re-engage alumni around reskilling or upskilling opportunities, or by providing information about the competitive advantage of their degree
Develop mentoring programs around specific interests, connecting alumni and current students
Enrollment Management and Recruitment
Highlight the lifetime-earning potential of a degree from your institution to prospective students or parents
Use the benchmarking report as a competitive differentiator between your institution and regional competitors
Alumni Success Reflects Your Success
While the past doesn’t predict the future, alumni are one of the greatest sources of insight for an institution. That’s why we’re pleased to offer three new reports that provide additional dimension to an Alumni Outcomes study, which gives college and university leaders an immense advantage: a robust and multifaceted suite of data that can be applied across the institution. You can make wide use of this data, diving deeper into how degrees are being used throughout graduates’ career journeys, showcasing alumni’s return on investment, and highlighting the competitive advantage of your graduates over regional or national competition.
Understanding the program-to-career outcomes of past students can bring clarity to how an institution fulfills its mission. Quantifying mission fulfillment in real terms can open up new avenues for strategic planning and illuminate possible solutions. The path to a bright future has been blazed by alumni.