What Happens After Graduation?

In a recent address to the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents’ Meeting, President Anderson observed:

“I do not recall a time when there has been greater skepticism about higher education’s value proposition than there is today. This skepticism is particularly acute for the liberal arts, where the path from the degree to a job after graduation is not a direct one. The degree of this skepticism varies from person to person and situation to situation, but in general the higher an institution’s price in relation to its measurable outcomes, the more skepticism it will face .For a very few institutions with commanding reputations, the value proposition is self-evident to most consumers.  For everybody else, having a compelling account of the value of the experience the institution offers relative to its cost is among the institution’s most critical tasks.

The most compelling value proposition will argue that a liberal arts education leads to financial independence, professional accomplishment, and personal fulfillment. We should be able to say exactly where the students who crossed the stage and shook the President’s hand at the last commencement are six months later: what percent have jobs, what percent have gone on to graduate or professional school, what percent are doing other things and what those things are.  This information should be available by major.  We should be able to name the top employers of our graduates, have information about their starting salaries, disclose our graduates’ acceptance rates into graduate and professional programs, and name the institutions at which they are studying.  This information should be available on our websites, clearly displayed in a manner that is easy to understand, and widely shared with prospective students and their families and with all of our other key constituencies.  U.S. News and World Report will tell prospective students and their families how much you spend per student or your acceptance rate, or your alumni giving rate. None of that information is actually relevant to the key question on their minds: “where will my education take me in life?” The information I’m describing speaks directly to that question.”

In keeping with that call for transparency and a clear presentation of the college’s value proposition, President Anderson initiated a major research endeavor to track and make accessible data on the career paths of recent St. Olaf graduates. Beginning with the Class of 2011, a concerted effort was made to discover and document the post-graduation activities of every St. Olaf graduate.