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Appearing below is an employment or placement report for the fall 2012 semester that the Texas State Technical College Marshall posted online for its website visitors to download. Let me say right now that I applaud Marshall’s openness even when the report’s numbers and percentages are not flattering. Click on the image to enlarge it.

TSTC Marshall Placement Report for Fall 2012 Grads & Completers

TSTC Marshall Placement Report for Fall 2012 Grads & Completers

(Download the report yourself here.)

As visitors who enlarged the image and took in those statistics can see, only 23 of 70 fall 2012 students, 33%–one in three–found jobs related to their program at TSTC Marshall. At least, that’s all the program-related jobs the college apparently knows about. 33%. I doubt any TSTC public relations folks are sending out any press releases with that percentage on it. Of course, after pencil-pushers crank in jobs NOT related to programs studied AND those who wandered off to another college, that percentage rises to a more acceptable 73%. With the system’s touting 90%+ “placement,” however, I don’t know that the figure of 73% will ever see much sunshine, either, in local newspapers.

Now, to be fair to Marshall, its state-generated stats, the high percentage that includes transfers to other colleges and any job that shows up in a database whether it’s program related or not, may be depressed some because Louisiana is right down the road, and a bunch of its students likely go there looking for work. If they land a job in Louisiana, they wouldn’t show up on Texas’s Unemployment Insurance database and would most likely land in the state’s “not found” category.** Marshall doesn’t have a “not found” column in this report, but for fall 2012, that would be 19 students.  (I arrived at 19 by taking the report’s 70 total students and subtracting the 51 total “placed.” Note that Marshall uses the word “employed” for columns covering jobs, then switches to “placed” after throwing in those who went on to another college. Those who care to do so can read why I object to using “placed” by going to my post titled “Oh, Those High Technical College “Placement” Rates! ) Reviewers of Marshall’s report don’t know how many of those 19 grads and completers headed for Shreveport or how many of them did something else that kept them off the state’s radar. One way as the other, however, their going to Louisiana or elsewhere would not affect TSTC Marshall’s program-related employment numbers since Texas does NOT even know job titles or occupations. All the state knows is where they work. It doesn’t know if a computer networking grad working for, say, a school system is pushing computer cables in the IT department or broccoli in the cafeteria. To its credit, TSTC Marshall is trying to track down its program-related employment numbers itself. It’s a hard job, too, since students have no obligation to report any jobs they’ve landed back to the college. (If Texas public colleges were actually placing all of their former students who end up with jobs, program-related or not, I would think Marshall would have  known where more of their graduates were, even if they were working out-of-state.) Despite its difficulty, trying to report program-related employment is truly an admirable endeavor and absolutely critical information for prospective students. After all colleges, particularly public colleges like TSTC, should be about prospective students’ welfare and not about shiny percentages used as lures to hook them for the benefit of the colleges’ bottom lines.

Now, having let Marshall off the hook just a little, I should point out that Texas requires private career colleges like ITT to maintain a 60% program-related placement rate. (Visitors may read the Texas Workforce Commission’s minutes that passed that 60% requirement by clicking on the highlighted text. The actual vote is on page 26, while the discussion is on preceding pages.) Apparently, the state doesn’t worry about how hard it is to track, either. Somehow or another, private career colleges must manage to get ‘er done, too, because they’ve been in business in Texas for quite some time. If I were an administrator at TSTC Marshall, I’d be tracking down some private career school administrators and getting them to load me up with methodology. It can be done.

Meanwhile, as far as Marshall is concerned, I suspect that its 33% program-related employment statistic is a little low, given its proximity to Louisiana and those 19 students they couldn’t find. I object to the “Total Employed” percentage being reported at all because, of the 37 total employed, 14 found jobs completely unrelated to their program of study at Marshall. People don’t attend a technical school’s computer networking program to be a department store cashier. I feel the same way about transfers to another college. For the most part, people don’t enroll in technical schools to prepare for Harvard. They attend technical colleges to land a technical job in industry. (A notable exception is TSTC Harlingen, however. It functions more like a community college than a technical college. It even has more academic than technical students.) Regardless, technical colleges should NOT try to take credit for their former grads’ landing non-program related jobs or transferring somewhere else by rolling it all into one big statistic and calling it “placement.” I’d just love to hear administrators claim they actually placed, actually assisted, former telecommunications grads find jobs as waiters in a restaurant. And I just bet that they help grads and completers shop around and enroll at other colleges, too. Meanwhile, prospective students hear those high “placement” percentages in the media or out of a recruiter’s mouth and dream of a better life made possible through the technology of their choosing as they sign on the dotted line.

Then they run into reality, at least all of the program-related reality administrators can scrape up: 33%.

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**From the state’s “ASALFS Results Definitions.” If readers haven’t already, they should really click on the Unemployment Insurance wage records link below and take in the severe limitations of this database for tracking education results. The database does not even contain job titles or occupations.

Automated Student and Adult Learner Follow-up System (ASALFS)
– Process of tracking students who attend Texas public community and technical colleges after they leave the colleges. Process involves electronic matching of social security numbers of students with Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records, DOD records, federal databases of civil employees, and the public higher education enrollment database maintained by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). Incarcerated students enrolled in academic programs as well as students with invalid SSNs are excluded from the cohort.