Jobs for the Future Leads Discussions on Improving Higher Education Outcomes

December 2013 | Houston, Texas
BY: Amy Williams

On Wednesday, November 20, 2013, Jobs for the Future hosted the first of three webinars on improving higher education outcomes in the United States. As stated by their mission, Jobs for the Future works to ensure that all lower-income young people and workers have the skills and credentials needed to succeed in the economy.

Mary Wright, Jobs for the Future Program Director of the Credentials that Work Initiative, facilitated the webinar that aimed to explain how data fits within the scope of improving higher education outcomes in America.

"It gives us some kind of heads up about colleges and gives them [students] different kinds of specifics," said Wright. "Colleges and their students can begin to use data to determine what the outcomes of the students' time in the classroom really should be or what it really is."

The webinar featured key speakers Patrick Perry, Vice Chancellor of Technology, Research and Information Systems for the California Community College’s Chancellor Office and Mark Schneider, creator and President of College Measures and vice president at American Institutes for Research.

Perry talked about benefits his team has experienced using Salary Surfer for data analysis of the 72 districts and 112 colleges in his Californian region.  He also gave an overview of how to get the wage records and some of the mechanics that are needed to make it workable.

"Wage data can give you a pretty good proxy of employment and employment rate," explained Perry. "You can also get salary growth overtime by degree . . . people who are already in the employments field and looking at the delta of the effect of getting the degree."

Schneider talked about College Measures, which has focused on gathering nationwide data and making it available to the public. College Measures is in its second year and is receiving funding from the Lumina Foundation. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board partnered with College Measures to share data concerning the first-year earnings of graduates of Texas public higher education institutes. The data provides information on 2-year community colleges, 4-year universities, and state technical college graduates. It also focuses on most popular fields of study, by state, and compares the median averages. Interestingly, Psychology and Biology are among the most popular degrees, yet on average generate the lowest earnings.

“A lot of what we do is actually aimed at trying to get students to understand what the return investment is, which I think is fundamentally important,” said Schneider.

The full webinar is available here, and Jobs for the Future will be releasing an archive of past webinars in the near future.  Future webinars will focus on “how to use labor market data to improve student success” and “how to engage with employers.” Stay tuned for the release of upcoming webinar dates and join Jobs for the Future as they explore more ways on how to improve higher education outcomes across the United States.