Survey of Achieving the Dream College Graduates To Reveal the Value of a Community College Education

USA Funds-Supported Survey About the Community College Experience Will Help College Decision-Making

Silver Spring, MD (January 19, 2017) –Achieving the Dream (ATD) today announced it will direct a large-scale multi-state study of community college alumni from Achieving the Dream institutions to provide colleges and students critical information about associate degree holders’ long-term professional success and personal fulfillment. A $390,000 grant from USA Funds will support the effort.

The new initiative will engage the polling firm Gallup and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in examining community college experiences and labor market outcomes for graduates using employment rates and post-graduation median salary data. Gallup will administer the Associate Degree Alumni Outcomes Survey to as many as 30,000 graduates of 16 ATD Network colleges in Indiana, Texas, Florida, Virginia and Tennessee. The survey is designed to gather data about the quality of graduates’ workplace engagement, overall well-being, and learning experiences at the colleges they attended. AIR will provide data on alumni salaries at the program, institution, and state level for analyses and reference.

ATD and Gallup expect to begin administering the survey early in 2017.  The first set of analyses are expected to be available in July 2017.

“The insights colleges gain from gathering and analyzing data about their students’ experiences often spurs them to make fundamental changes in their approach to student success,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, ATD’s President and CEO. “Robust data from the labor market outcomes plus the other success measures will be critical to supporting ATD colleges in their commitment to continuous and evidence-based improvement.”

In April 2016, Gallup published the Gallup-USA Funds Associate Degree Graduates Report based on interviews with more than 2,500 adults whose highest level of education is an associate degree. The study asked the graduates about their jobs and lives to discover more about how their college experiences may have influenced their professional and personal success and satisfaction.

“USA Funds believes that colleges and universities that survey their alumni about the value of their college experience position themselves for greater student and institutional success,” said Carol D’Amico, USA Funds executive vice president, Mission Advancement and Philanthropy. “After commissioning Gallup’s groundbreaking survey of associate degree holders last year, USA Funds is delighted to partner with Achieving the Dream to expand the measurement of college value to graduates of community colleges that are focused on student success.”

Easy-to-collect metrics such as job and graduate school placement and alumni salaries have traditionally been used to measure the value of a college education. Although these measures provide some insight, they do not offer a holistic view of a graduate’s life, nor do they reflect the missions of higher education institutions.

In the ongoing movement to increase accountability in higher education, colleges and universities are being asked to prove the value of a college degree beyond the traditional metrics. Prospective students and parents want to know more about how each institution will uniquely prepare today’s college student for a knowledge-based economy, and whether the significant investment they are making will have the long-term effect they desire.

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Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree. Evidence-based, student-centered, and built on the values of equity and excellence, Achieving the Dream is closing achievement gaps and accelerating student success nationwide by: 1) guiding evidence-based institutional improvement, 2) leading policy change, 3) generating knowledge, and 4) engaging the public. Conceived as an initiative in 2004 by Lumina Foundation and seven founding partner organizations, today, Achieving the Dream is leading the most comprehensive non-governmental reform network for student success in higher education history. With over 200 institutions, more than 100 coaches and advisors, and 15 state policy teams - working throughout 35 states and the District of Columbia – the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network helps more than 4 million community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity and achieving their dreams.

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