October 4, 2012
Today, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia released the Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS), a collaborative effort among several Virginia agencies that tracks outcomes of students across the state as they transition through public school systems, college and into the workforce.
The 2012 General Assembly passed a bill, introduced by Del. Chris Stolle, which requires SCHEV to publish data on the proportion of graduates with employment at 18 months and five years after the date of graduation. Currently, the VLDS provides this information by program and degree level at the 18 month mark for all public institutions and private institutions eligible to participate in the Tuition Assistance Grant Program.
While the system has some data limitations now, it is the beginning of what will be a very useful tool for students, parents, universities and policy makers. As SCHEV is able to access more data, the VLDS will present a clearer picture of the positive outcomes of a college education and will enable leaders to create education and workforce policies based on consistent and relevant data.
For us here at Old Dominion University, the VLDS tells a positive story of our graduates' ability to gain full-time employment at salaries that are competitive with national averages. According to the report, some 47 percent of ODU graduates targeted by the study, who had a four-year bachelor's degree, had full-time employment 18 months after graduation. The average salary of these alumni was $36,571.
Recently, Old Dominion was recognized by U.S. News and World Report for its students graduating with the third lowest debt burden of public doctoral institutions in the country. The average amount is $16,500. When you couple this with the employment and salary data, it presents a compelling case for families on the positive return on their investment in an Old Dominion University education.
Another 17.2 percent of Old Dominion graduates with four-year bachelor's degrees enrolled in a higher level degree program in Virginia.
The good news for the Commonwealth is that Old Dominion graduates, whether moving into full-time employment or pursuing an advanced degree, are remaining in Virginia. As we know, the backbone of a strong economy is a highly-educated and talented workforce.
One caveat on the study, that I think is significant for Old Dominion, is that it does not capture employment in the federal government. For a university with a large military population and located near several federal agencies and labs, this limitation doesn't enable us to see the full picture of our students' success.
Regardless, what the VLDS has captured is extremely important and beneficial. As a member of the Governor's Higher Education Commission that supported the "Top Jobs" legislation, I can attest that these data will help state and university leaders alike create programs, policies and initiatives to continue to position the Commonwealth of Virginia as a national leader in economic development and quality of life.
John R. Broderick