SeekUT uses student-level wage data to assist decision-making process
- For three years, the University of Texas system has been collaborating with the Texas Workforce Commission to provide salary data for graduates, and thanks to a new partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, the system will begin this fall to incorporate data for graduates who have left the state.
- SeekUT launched in January 2014 as a tool to "help students make informed decisions about their future," around majors and how much student loan debt they should take out, said the system's Vice Chancellor in the Office of Strategic Initiatives, Stephanie Bond Huie. But the tool has evolved to assist the universities with evaluating the effectiveness of programs to improve student experience, as well as increase collaboration with industry to make sure workforce needs are being met.
- The data is also a useful advocacy tool as well, Bond Huie said; being able to zero in on the fact that UT institution graduates earn more than the amount of money the state appropriates to the schools is a good indicator of the economic impact the institutions are having in the state, and the value of the legislature's investment in the enterprise.
New bipartisan legislation in Congress to provide student-level data is largely supported by education advocates, who say tracking student-level information will allow institutions to break down data to better serve individuals and members of specific groups around which trend lines emerge. And students are calling on institutions to better use data to customize their experiences on campus, as well.
For institutions, being able to track graduate outcomes provides a huge value in being able to market programs to prospective students, but also in being able to adjust the programs offered and the way they are delivered, as well as the aid offered to students pursuing various disciplines. For instance, if an institution can see students' debt:income ratios are too high around certain programs, leaders may work harder to find additional ways to lower costs of that program to keep the university's social mobility index numbers favorable.
There are, however, privacy concerns associated with tracking student-level data. But many argue the data is already being collected, and Bond Huie says the success of the SeekUT program so far has demonstrated institutions can use the data responsibly.
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