Questions persist about the utility of a liberal arts degree. Prospective students ask questions such as: Will I be able to get a job when I graduate? How will this degree prepare me for employment?
In that environment, liberal arts colleges may know students will be alright when they graduate, provided those students engage in the academic program and other university-sponsored experiences. But how can schools prove it to nervous undergraduates and their parents?
Dr. Dave Berque, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs at DePauw University, joined the Enrollment Growth University podcast to talk about their Gold Commitment and the concept of promising job outcomes in higher ed.
What Is DePauw’s Gold Commitment?
The Gold Commitment is a formal way of letting students know that if they come to DePauw and they engage in the full body of programs, the university will be all in for them when they graduate.
“We were noticing that we had very high success rates in terms of the percentage of our students who had positive outcomes within six months of graduation,” Dave said. “Yet despite these positive outcomes, we were still answering a lot of questions from incoming students. We wanted a way to make it really clear that they would be okay.”
The Gold Commitment is DePauw’s commitment to its students that if they come and fully engage with the university but don’t have a positive outcome within six months of graduation, the school will help them secure a six-month starter job. Alternatively, students can return to DePauw for a tuition-free semester tuition, perhaps in a different field of study.
Is DePauw’s Gold Commitment an Enrollment Strategy?
It’s both missional alignment and an enrollment strategy.
“It does align what we’ve already been doing very nicely,” Dave explained, “but I think it also provides a concise way of explaining that students can attain a liberal arts education without fear of having limited employment aspects. We know that our graduates do very well. We’re absolutely confident of that based on the data, but it’s been challenging to convince others of that at times.”
Next-Steps Advice for Institutions Making Outcomes Commitments
You need a strong sense of what is already happening in terms of success rates for your graduates. The key is in being able to offer a guarantee is knowing that you won’t have to make good on that guarantee very often because your students are already successful.
“So if an institution is thinking about heading in this direction,” Dave said, “it’s going to be important to do a rigorous first destination survey, looking at their graduates within six months of graduation.”
It’s also important to get close to a 100% completion rate for th survey, because if you’re doing the survey and you’re only getting 50% of the students to respond, that doesn’t tell you much about the other 50%.
“I think about understanding the outcomes that students are attaining,” Dave told us, “and then if you see gaps in certain areas, make sure you close those gaps.”
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