National Opinions

Great jobs, great lives, for college graduates

State College of Florida President Carol Probstfeld speaks during the 2016 State College of Florida Collegiate School graduation ceremony May 6 at Neel Performing Arts Center.
State College of Florida President Carol Probstfeld speaks during the 2016 State College of Florida Collegiate School graduation ceremony May 6 at Neel Performing Arts Center. Bradenton Herald

We measure everything in higher education today. Enrollment and graduation numbers are no longer enough to demonstrate our value to students, alumni and community. We gather data on everything in order to determine our return on investment for a student’s tuition. For Florida’s public colleges and universities, we receive state funding — or have it withheld — based on this performance data. But what if we’re not measuring the right things to determine our ROI?

That is a compelling question asked by a report produced by Gallup and Purdue University in 2014. The report’s findings were presented at the Governor’s Degrees to Jobs Summit in Orlando in late May. The Great Jobs, Great Lives study produced by Gallup and Purdue University surveyed more than 30,000 graduates across the United States to “examine the long-term success of graduates as they pursue a good job and better life.” In other words, did going to college prepare you for the career you hoped for, and did that career create the quality of life you expected?

Leaders at Eckerd College, New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, The Ringling, and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, formed the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast, better known as C4, to make college more attainable and available in our region. Our consortium addresses the study’s questions in an impactful way, and I’d like to focus on three of its findings in particular.

“Where graduates went to college hardly matters to their current well-being and work lives in comparison to their experiences in college.”

The diversity of our consortium means that there is something for everyone in our “college town.” Our local students can choose the school that fits them, not a one-size-fits-all institution. The study found that a student’s success is determined by the quality of the time they spend in college, not the school’s size or pedigree. Gallup and Purdue determined that “it’s not where you go, it’s how you do it” that matters in higher education. Supporting and engaging faculty are key to a student’s positive experience in college. Our C4 schools feature more than 550 full-time faculty members who are not only committed to student success, but do their own teaching in small class sizes guaranteed to facilitate the engagement the study highlights.

“If employed graduates feel their college prepared them well for life outside it, the odds that they are engaged at work rise three times. Internships, long-term projects, and extracurricular activities contribute to feeling prepared.”

Internships provide a student an opportunity to work in their chosen field, giving them experience and a “test drive” of their future. These opportunities also link our students to employers and many internships lead to full-time employment upon graduation. Internships also highlight the relationship our schools share with our local business partners to ensure that we are preparing students for the employment needs of our community. Cross registration among our consortium also offers a unique way for students to add to their college experience by taking classes offered at other member schools on a space-available basis.

We are committed to providing our community with affordable educational opportunities and we collectively offer more than 172 degree and certificate programs.

It is interesting to take a longer view of student satisfaction that goes beyond the data, and it also validates the efforts we are making in this region to focus on the benefits our consortium can provide our students and community.

Dr. Carol Probstfeld is the president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Spotlight on Higher Education is a monthly column written by the leaders of local institutions.