After Completion: The Dynamics of Career-Entry from Public and Private Two-Year Colleges

Project: Research project

Project Details


While our prior research analyzed degree completion, this study examines career-entry. After awarding $2 billion for community-college job training, federal officials asked experts (including me) for effectiveness indicators. Yet little evidence exists on how college occupational programs work, what students must know, and what are indicators of successful career-entry and progress. We propose to study these questions in two-year colleges, using detailed studies of institutions, combining quantitative and qualitative data, from three perspectives: college staff, students, and graduates. In evaluating programs, we expand on traditional definitions of career outcomes and requisite skills. Besides studying skills training, we study advising, employer-contacts, and other program procedures. Besides studying earnings, we study non-monetary job rewards (autonomy, advancements, etc.). Besides studying short-term outcomes, we study career outcomes over 10 years. Instead of college being driven by students' choices, we examine if college procedures inform those choices, by helping students discover new interests, new job rewards, or new ways to accomplish their goals. We will interview 240 graduates and 120 staff and survey 3000 students in public and private two-year colleges. Our data will include institutional variables and staff perspectives rarely available in national surveys. Our past research showed that private occupational colleges use more directive procedures than community colleges for improving degree completion. We hope to discover the strengths and weaknesses of highly structured programs for career-entry and whether their effects are magnified or reversed ten years later. Given President Obama's emphasis on the needs for skilled workers, in-depth understanding of two-year colleges is increasingly important. Educators must understand how to design programs, advise students, help students discover interests and abilities, and assist graduates' career-entry and advancements. Our study will contribute to national-policy goals by identifying college-procedure options associated with better outcomes that can serve a large portion of the workforce.
Effective start/end date8/1/147/31/18


  • Spencer Foundation (201500043)


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