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May Cheng / Career Development - Post-Graduation Outcomes

The last time Barnard released graduate employment rates—for the class of 2013—32 percent of seniors were unemployed at graduation.

Three years later, the unemployment rate has decreased to one percent for the class of 2016, following the college’s decision to use a new metric for data collection. The new method includes two surveys as well as information on student employment gathered from LinkedIn and from the National Student Clearinghouse over the course of a year, rather than publishing the results of an exit survey that is distributed during commencement rehearsal.

Claiming that the exit survey may produce misleading information, the office has also declined to release the statistics for the last two years, making it difficult to track employment rates from year to year.

The college contends that the shift creates a more accurate picture of the employment status of Barnard graduates, since several peer institutions stop collecting data after six months—not a full year—after graduation. Additionally, without knowing what percentage of graduating seniors are employed, students will no longer have a clear idea of what to expect on graduation day.

The new report, which surveyed 549 members of the class of 2016 out of a possible 630, found that 68 percent of those surveyed were employed full-time and 23 percent were attending graduate or professional school as of fall 2017.

In December, when asked by Spectator why the senior surveys had not been made publicly available since 2013, Earl shared some information from the 2016 exit survey—including that 34 percent were unemployed at the time of graduation—and said that the office would publish results as soon as possible.

But after repeated requests that the information be made public, Vice President of Communications Justin Harmon told Spectator that the office does not think it would be responsible to release the reports.

“If we release the data without sufficient context … it could be a worrying disservice to the community,” Harmon said. “I just don’t think there is a responsible answer in terms of the data that we have and the way we can interpret it.”

Harmon said that over the past two years, the office has worked to create a more accurate surveying process, and that the new data released for the class of 2016 makes more sense, as some fields do not hire on an academic calendar and some students do not begin to look for work until after they have graduated.

During the college search process, students consult graduation employment statistics in assessing the quality of a school. For current students, these numbers provide an indication of how their peers are faring in the job search process and what they can expect for themselves.

Senior Class President Ambika Mookerjee, BC ’18, stressed that students look at these values in order to measure the “success of the college,” as well as where they should be compared to their peers.

“It is important to be pragmatic about where you stand and whether you are doing everything you need to do, or if maybe you are doing everything and you still aren’t getting anywhere,” Mookerjee said. “It is reassuring to know that that is normal. I think the college could actually do a lot of service to the students to reassure them that even if they aren’t employed at graduation, they are on the right track.”

Harmon said the new data is more helpful since it allows Barnard’s graduate employment rates to be more accurately compared to peer institutions, as the standard reporting format is for colleges to survey students after they have had time to look for a job post-graduation.

For the class of 2016, Columbia University Center for Career Education reported that of the students who graduated from Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, 69.3 percent of those surveyed were employed, 19.1 percent were attending or planned to attend graduate school, and 7.9 percent were still searching for employment six months after graduation.

Barnard will likely continue using a one-year model to measure graduation employment for the class of 2017, Harmon said, but will consider moving to a six-month model in the future.

In addition to changes in the way graduation employment is reported, the office has also decided to stop releasing office operations, including the number of events and student participation, though they will continue to keep track of these statistics. Harmon said these numbers are not useful in measuring the success of the office, though CCE continues to release similar figures for its operations annually, and instead will focus its efforts on the graduation outcomes survey.

Failure to report graduation employment and office operations data for the past two years has led to transparency concerns, as students said this limits their ability to hold the office and the college accountable.

Representative for Campus Services Mia Lindheimer, BC ’19, said missing data makes it difficult for prospective students to decide whether they want to invest in a Barnard education.

“For prospective students it is valuable for them to be able to compare college to college,” Lindheimer said. “I want to know what my chances of employment are if I go to Barnard. [Prospective students] want to know if they can justify dropping that cash.”

Nicole Sinno, BC ’17, said many seniors in her class, herself included, were not employed at the time of graduation. Sinno, who now works full-time in marketing, said the office was largely unhelpful, providing conflicting information and failing to inform students of available hiring opportunities.

“Senior year is hard enough, and you’d think such a great school like Barnard would take care in assisting students in this huge transition,” Sinno said. “I’m not sure if increased statistics would make the office more accountable, but there definitely needs to be a big change.”

Sinno said dissatisfaction with the office was common among her classmates, many of which did not have jobs lined up at graduation, except for those working in consulting, law, and finance, for which the office provided extensive support.

“Most of [my friends] started securing jobs a month out, a few are still looking,” Sinno said. “With the current system, don’t wait for Barnard. You have to take charge.”

Correction, Nov. 7: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Office of Career Development has decided to stop measuring office operations, including the number of events and student participation. The office will continue to measure them, but will not release them.

aubri.juhasz@columbiaspectator.com | @aubriruth

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