AAC&U News, March 2017

Facts & Figures – University Graduates' Experiences with Career Services, Mentorships, and Diversity

The recent Gallup-Purdue Index Report 2016, a random survey “of 11,483 respondents with a bachelor’s degree or higher . . . in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia,” details student experiences with career services, mentorships, and diverse groups of people.

Use of Career Services on the Rise, Approval Remains Stagnant

  • Over half (52 percent) of all graduates visited their institutions’ career services offices as undergraduate students. This increased to 61 percent for students who earned degrees between 2010 and 2016, a higher percentage than seen in “any other time frame since 1940.”
  • However, graduates “are no more likely to report that their interactions were very helpful or helpful than are graduates from previous decades.”

First-Generation and Transfer Students Need More Access to Career Services

  • Fewer first-generation students or transfer students visited career services, but they were just as likely as other students to rate their experiences as “helpful or very helpful.”
  • According to the report, “These findings suggest that what the career services office provides these students is valuable, but their access to these services remains lower. These data also indicate that colleges and universities may need to adapt their communication and outreach strategies for students who face a steeper learning curve on college campuses.”

Some Students of Color More Likely to Visit Career Services and Find It Helpful

  • More black (65 percent), Asian (64 percent), or Hispanic (59 percent) graduates visited career services than white students (50 percent). More Hispanic (52 percent) and black (49 percent) students rated their experiences as helpful or very helpful than Asian or white students (both 42 percent).
  • Graduates who visited career services were “more likely to be employed full time” (67 percent) after graduation than other students (59 percent). “This is particularly true for black graduates—a 12-percentage-point gap in full-time employment separates those who visited career services [66 percent] from those who did not [54 percent].”

Positive Career Services Experiences Improve Students’ Perceptions of College

  • Graduates who found career services very helpful were much more likely than other graduates to (1) believe their alma mater is “passionate about the success of its students,” (2) find a job quickly, (3) find their profession fulfilling, (4) say their alma mater prepared them for life after graduation, (5) recommend their alma mater to others, or (6) donate to their alma mater.

Faculty and Staff a Valuable Source of Mentorships and Internships

  • Forty-three percent of college graduates agreed or strongly agreed that they “had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams while obtaining their undergraduate degree.” Professors (81 percent), university staff or faculty (33 percent), and extracurricular activity advisers (10 percent) were common sources of mentors.
  • The report said that having a mentor was more important than who that mentor was. Who the mentor was had no significant effect on “evaluations of the value of [students’] degree, how prepared they felt for life outside of college, and the time it took to acquire a good job upon graduation.”
  • While in college, 55 percent of graduates worked in a job or internship that “allowed them to apply what they were learning in the classroom. These jobs and internships are more prevalent among recent graduates than older graduates, with 63 [percent] of 2010 to 2016 graduates reporting they had this type of job or internship, compared with 52 [percent] of those who graduated in the 1980s, and 57 [percent] of those who graduated in the 1990s.”
  • Many of these internships were arranged through professors (32 percent), faculty or staff at the university (28 percent), or extracurricular advisors (5 percent).

Experiences with Diversity on Campus Heighten Perceptions of Diversity

  • Sixty-eight percent of students who graduated between 1990 and 2016 said that their campuses were good places for ethnic and racial minority students to study, while 25 percent didn’t know if that was true. However, only 42 percent said their campuses were good places for LGBT students and 49 percent didn’t know.
  • More than three-fourths of black, Asian, or Hispanic graduates said their institutions were good places for minorities (and less than 10 percent said they didn’t know), while just 65 percent of white graduates said so (and 29 percent didn’t know).
  • Of graduates from 2010 to 2016, 44 percent “strongly agree that they interacted with people from different backgrounds on a regular basis during their undergraduate experience.”
  • Among graduates who said they regularly interacted with diverse groups of people, 88 percent “strongly agree that their university was a good place for racial and ethnic minorities to study.” In contrast, among those who strongly disagreed that they had had regular interactions with people unlike themselves, only 42 percent believed the campus was a good place for racial and ethnic minority students.

About AAC&U News

AAC&U News is written and edited by Ben Dedman. If you have questions or comments about the newsletter's contents, please e-mail dedman@aacu.org.

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