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A month or two back, not finding anything on their websites, I sent a Texas Public Information Act request to the Texas State Technical College System Administration asking for TSTC Waco’s and TSTC Harlingen’s program-related placement information. Neither had anything online, and Waco had no program-related statistics at all, online or otherwise. I’ve since reported extensively on Waco and even managed to pry an overall program-related employment rate from some numbers I did manage to get. This site’s visitors who haven’t seen Waco’s overall program-related numbers and how I figured them should see the post titled, “TSTC Waco Employment Survey Percentage of Grads with Program-Related Jobs.” In this post, I turn my attention to TSTC Harlingen’s numbers.

Overall, I’m disappointed in them, given that 90%+ “placement” rate the system and its colleges constantly throw out for public consumption. For instance, visitors may have run across a statement like this before, this particular one in a 2/19/2013 Valley Morning Star article titled “TSTC Corrects Warning Issues“:

Maldonado said this high graduation rate paired with a 95 percent job placement rate for graduates present an exciting opportunity for students moving from high school to college. He said many TSTC students are first-generation college students and are entering a “time of lifelong learning.”

Rather than a “95 percent job placement rate,” the Texas State Technical College Harlingen’s 90-day program-related employment rate for fall 2012 was 24%, and for spring 2013 it was 23%.** Visitors have to keep in mind, however, that the TSTC Harlingen Career Services office obtained the numbers on which these two stats are based only 90-days, three months, after the students in the applicable cohorts graduated or completed their programs of study. The other TSTC program-related statistics I’ve thrown up on this site have had considerably more time to boil in the numbers cauldron before the colleges, TSTC West Texas and TSTC Marshall, tried to dip them out and serve them up on their websites, albeit–and not surprisingly, given all that 90%+ “placement” talk in the media–without much hoopla or fanfare. TSTC Harlingen doesn’t have, for example, statistics for program-related employment after a year or so has ticked by. At least they have something, though, which is more than I can say for TSTC Waco and the Lamar Institute of Technology. See Waco’s overall stats that I pried out of a report and LIT’s lack of stats by clicking on the highlighted text.)

To view the two documents for fall 2012 and spring 2013 that TSTC Harlingen officials call their “90-Day Placement Reports,” open the two links below. The 24% and 23% statistics are in the summaries at the top of each report in the category titled “Graduates employed in their field as of report date.”

TSTC Harlingen 90-Day Placement Report Fall 2012 131022

TSTC Harlingen 90-Day Placement Survey Spring 2013 131022

24% and 23% truly are a far cry from that 90%+ placement rate heard time and time again. Still, they’re only 90-day numbers, so I would expect them to rise over time. Even so, take in this claim on the TSTC System’s website again:

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs! On average, industry has more job openings than TSTC has graduates. TSTC boasts placement rates of more than 90 percent (based on departmental job placement activities).

I would have thought that, if, “on average” there are more jobs than grads, even the shorter, 90-day program-related employment percentages would have been higher than the low to mid-twenties. (Computer Drafting & Design’s program-related employment rates are pretty doggone high in both reports, though!)

It would be interesting to see what Harlingen’s program-related job rate would be after about a year has ticked by. TSTC Harlingen doesn’t know beyond 90 days, the state doesn’t know at all (See “Texas ‘Placement’ Rates for Public, Two-Year Colleges Explained“), and most importantly students don’t know before they enroll and commit a year or two of their time and thousands of dollars. Now that’s a shame, particularly when the state requires private colleges to provide program-related statistics to PROSPECTIVE students before they enroll.

Texas public technical colleges can and should do better. Students should have actual, program-related employment and other information before making life-changing decisions. That 90%+ drumbeat does prospective students a disservice.

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**NOTE: Those who open the links for the two Harlingen reports may notice a category called “Graduates entering the workforce/military.” That number is sometimes quite high compared to the “Graduates employed as of the report date.” (The latter category is for ANY job, program-related or not.) That is because “Graduates entering the workforce/military” is a statement of intent by grads filling out the survey, NOT a statement concerning actually finding a job or going into the military. A good number of students answered both the “intent” and “actual” survey questions. A little confused when I first ran across those two categories, I contacted a TSTC Harlingen official, who graciously explained it to me.

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