WASHINGTON — Graduates who visited the career services office as undergraduates are more likely to be employed full time for an employer or for themselves — at a rate of 67 percent versus 59 percent among those who did not visit career services, according to a new survey released Tuesday.
And, in a finding that one campus diversity leader described as “unintuitive,” the situation was more pronounced among Black graduates. Whereas 66 percent of Black graduates who visited the career services office were employed full time after graduation, the full-time employment rate was only 54 percent among those who did not, the survey found.
Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden, chief diversity officer at the University of Maryland, had a mixed reaction to the survey’s finding that Black students appear to benefit more greatly from career services.
“The data suggest that career services are working pretty well for students of color, which is really good news,” Shorter-Gooden said.
However, she added that the finding was “a little unintuitive” because students of color often don’t see themselves modeled among career services personnel, or because the services may not be delivered in a “culturally responsive way.”
Shorter-Gooden stressed the need to be cautious about interpreting the data and to not infer causation, even with graduates who rated their visits to career services as “very helpful.”
Black and Asian graduates were more likely than any other group to say their visits to the career services office was “very helpful,” at rates of 21 and 22 percent, versus 19 and 15 percent for Hispanic and White graduates.
“We don’t know if part of the reason why particular students who landed a good job report that career service was high quality,” Shorter-Gooden said, adding that it could be the product of a “reverse halo effect.”
“This isn’t data demonstrating causality, even as we try to make sense of it and figure out what the causes are,” Shorter-Gooden said.
Shorter-Gooden said she found it noteworthy that the survey found first-generation and transfer students didn’t visit career services as frequently or find it as useful as did Black students, because there are “significant overlaps” between Black students and first-generation or transfer students.
“So there’s a lot to figure out in terms of unpacking,” Shorter-Gooden said.
Shorter-Gooden made her remarks Tuesday at Gallup World Headquarters for the release of the latest iteration of the Gallup-Purdue Index. Titled “Great Jobs. Great Lives. The Value of Career Services, Inclusive Experiences and Mentorship for College Graduates,” the survey, which also asked graduates whether their alma maters were good places for students of color and LGBT students to study, comes at a time of increased focus on the extent to which students are finding employment upon graduation.
Simply visiting career services isn’t what made a difference, said Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and workforce development at Gallup.
“The real difference is whether you had a high-quality experience,” Busteed said.
To bolster his point, Busteed noted that there was no statistical difference between those who visited career services and those who did not when it came to whether they had a good job waiting on them after graduation — 31 percent versus 34 percent.
However, 49 percent of those who said career services was helpful had a good job waiting for them upon graduation, whereas just 15 percent of those who say career services was not helpful could say the same thing, the survey found.
Susan Brennan, associate vice president of career services at Bentley University, said: “All of this data to me supports the need to ask more questions about how are we connecting with students and what is the value added from our services.”
Jonathan Alger, president of James Madison University, said at a time when administrative services are being cut, it’s important to find ways to make career services a core part of what a university offers.
“At a time when we most need these services, we’ve got to find a way to link them very deliberately to the heart of our educational mission,” Alger said.
One career services professional asked why the survey only looked at visits to the physical office of career services when career services staff do much outside of the office, such as engage with students in different venues and events on campus.
Busteed acknowledged that the survey has its limitations but explained: “You have to ask questions that almost anyone can know the answer to.”
Most graduates — two-thirds — reported that their university was a good place for racial and ethnic minorities to study, but less — 42 percent — said the same was true for LGBT students.
However, Shorter-Gooden noted that while the survey examined graduates from 1990 through 2016, campuses have been “roiling” the past couple of years with issues of racial strife and how to accommodate students from the LGBT community.
A large number of graduates — 25 and 49 percent, respectively — said they “don’t know” if their universities were good places to study for racial and ethnic minorities or LGBT students.
“There’s something sweet about the ‘don’t knows,’” Shorter-Gooden said. “I kind of prefer the ‘don’t knows’ to ‘I know what someone else’s experience is.’
“Maybe this is a time when actual experiences of students of color and LGBT students are more fluid and where perceptions of their experiences are complicated and unclear.”
Jamaal Abdul-Alim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter @dcwriter360.