From Inside Higher Ed:
Technical colleges in Texas are poised to up the ante on performance-based state funding, linking 45 percent of their operating budget to the employment rates and salaries of alumni.
“Some sort of outcomes-based methodologies are inevitable for likely all of public higher ed,” said Michael L. Reeser, the system’s chancellor. “We thought we’d be the first.”
The case against the policy appears later:
Another obvious limitation is that college completion is not the sole determiner of employment. Outside events — like, say a recession — can drive statewide unemployment rates and wage levels.
“I have problems holding higher education accountable for things they can’t control,” Wellman said.
Brown agreed, and said officials were working to try to create a fair model. “We don’t want the school penalized for something that’s affecting the entire country, or the state.”
The article then caveats that this system would not work for all universities, given technical colleges’ heavy focus on “return on investment” (ie higher-paying jobs upon graduation).
I considered this article part-warning shot, part wake-up call. What would career centers do differently if funding was at stake? I’d conjecture they’d spend more time teaching (and requiring) job seekers to conduct an off-campus search rather than leaving it as an optional activity, since not even large schools employ 100% of a class through on-campus recruiting (OCR).
My hypothesis for why career centers don’t already spend more time teaching the off-campus search is because it’s far less agreed upon than OCR. The only consensus around off-campus searching is at the highest, most noncommittal level — laundry lists of general tips like “Use your network.” However, there is no agreement about how to synthesize those tips effectively. Our job seekers, being less qualified than career advisors to synthesize those tips, likewise fail to do so, and everyone leaves frustrated.
At Duke this year, we started requiring students to demonstrate off-campus proficiency (using The 2-Hour Job Search we teach them, or any other) before granting them access to OCR. Such an approach may not be perfect or work for everyone, but it feels directionally correct — we teach them a step-by-step process, and if it proves ineffective during their required off-campus engagement, we are there to help them address the trouble areas.
If other universities would indeed increase off-campus training in response to outcome-based funding, my question is “Why wait?” Adding further (and better) off-campus training now would benefit both job seekers and career centers, requiring students to develop a critical life skill before granting them access to convenient-but-temporary options like OCR.
My hope isn’t that everyone adopts our model, but that we move the off-campus conversation away from safe laundry lists of advice towards risk-tolerant attempts at practical innovation. The warning shot fired in Texas offers a great wake-up call to seek improvements over the status quo even before our funding depends on it, and I hope we’ll take advantage of this opportunity.