Graduate outcomes data has ‘no impact’ on student choices, US survey finds

Research reveals that salary and graduation rate information does not influence high school pupils

July 21, 2017
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Data on graduate outcomes has “no detectable impact” on prospective US university students’ decisions about where or what to study, according to recent research.

US thinktank the Urban Institute developed a website detailing programme-level graduate earnings figures and other outcomes data, which was piloted at high schools in Virginia.

Pupils from 25 high schools were included in the analysis, with some receiving the full version of the website, and others receiving a control version that looked similar but included only basic information about colleges and did not detail labour market outcomes.

The results found that use of the tools was low and that users at schools randomly assigned to receive the labour market version of the website did not visit the site more frequently than those who received the control version.

Moreover, students from schools that received the labour market version did not choose majors with higher average wages or institutions that had higher graduation rates or lower net prices than the other cohort of students, according to the research.

“The rollout of the tool had no detectable impact on students”, the Urban Institute said.

“There did not seem to be significant pent-up demand among high school seniors for information on labour market outcomes, despite its appeal to policymakers and researchers.”

The Urban Institute added that the results indicate that “simply publishing and marketing earnings data on a website is unlikely to change the behaviour of prospective college students”.

“Policymakers should not assume that providing more information, on its own, is likely to solve any of the shortcomings of the US higher education systems,” it continued.

In 2015, the US government launched its College Scorecard, an online tool with data on universities, including graduate earnings, that aims to allow prospective students to compare the cost and value of higher education institutions.

Several states have also published their own data on graduates’ labour market outcomes, including average earnings and typical employment rates, according to the study.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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