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About a month ago, I published a post titled “Technical Student Placement Rate of 90% is Merely Average.” Judging from the number of hits I got that day and for a few days after, I suspect that was news to a lot of people. The source for that story was a website called “Compare Colleges | TX.” No doubt Compare Colleges used state info, but I thought it would be useful for people to hear about those high percentages and how they’re actually mediocre straight from the horse’s mouth. Accordingly, please see the image below (click to enlarge), a screen shot of a query on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Higher Education Accountability System website.

Screen Shot of Query on Texas Higher Education Accountability Website Taken 11/2/2013

Screen Shot of Query on Texas Higher Education Accountability Website Taken 11/2/2013

For this query, I used the accountability website’s “Interactive Access to Data” section. I selected “Community Colleges” and clicked on “Go.” On the following screen, I clicked on the “+” sign alongside “Contextual Measures” under “Success.” Next, from the resulting list, I clicked on the “+” sign alongside “Graduate Success – Technical.” Then I placed a check mark in the box next to “Total” (no modifiers or special populations next to it–just plain ol’ “Total”). For my final selection, I highlighted “Statewide Totals” and then clicked on “Generate.” What I got were those all-inclusive “placement” rates, or, as the state calls it here, “success” rates for graduates and completers of technical programs at community colleges. (From what I can tell searching around the Internet, community colleges don’t brag much about these inflated placement rates like technical colleges do. I suspect it has something to do with community colleges’ different purposes.)

As the image above shows, even Texas’s many community colleges and community college districts (the accountability site tracks 84 entities consisting of both colleges & districts) manage to achieve an average of 90% “placement” for their technical grads. Why? Because just about everything graduates do, including being unable to find a job in the technology they studied, giving up, and taking a completely unrelated job like waiting tables at a restaurant, counts as a success as long the state matches their Social Security numbers in one of its databases. (See “Texas ‘Placement’ Rates for Public, Two-Year Colleges Explained.”)

So if everything counts–in the field studied, out of the field, full-time, part-time, military service, and college transfers–then academic student “placement” ought to be about the same as technical placement, right? I mean, to NOT count as a success, grads would just about have to live under a bridge and hope nobody spotted them. It shouldn’t matter at all what category of student, academic or technical, they happen to be classified as. Let’s give it the acid test and see if academic “success” compares to technical results. Click on the image below to enlarge it.

Screen Shot of Query on Texas Higher Education Accountability Website Taken 11/3/2013

Screen Shot of Query on Texas Higher Education Accountability Website Taken 11/3/2013

Bingo! The academic rate was an exact match of the technical rate in 2009 and was within 1% of the technical rate in the following years displayed.

You know, the state’s (and technical schools’ happily piling on) redefining success to include just about anything is instructive. I know it will be hard for this site’s visitors to fathom, but I’m not so good at basketball. I believe I’ll just redefine success as just hitting the backboard with the ball rather than actually having to put it through the net. Hey, and just showing up at the gym ought to count for something, too. Just think of the high basketball placement rate I’ll be able to brag about! As long as the folks sitting at home don’t know how my placement rate is figured, they’ll think I’m pretty doggone good, too. Yes sir! The state and its technical colleges are onto something here.

It’s too bad the public isn’t onto those technical colleges for puffing out their chests over their mediocre–just average–90% state placement rates.