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Regular visitors to this site are familiar with my objection to public technical colleges’ claims of high “placement” rates and high employment rates. My objections notwithstanding, the chest pounding continues unabated. Readers are invited to inspect the following quote taken from a 12/12/2013 Marshall News-Messenger article titled “TSTC Graduates 51, Four-Fifths Have Jobs.”

More than 50 Texas State Technical College students were eligible for graduation this semester and the local college reports that 81 percent of fall graduates have already been placed into jobs.

Now, dear reader, look at the very last word of that sentence and tell me if you see words like “program-related” or “technical” or “related to their field of study” anywhere near it. No? Me either.

Next, my visitors are invited to visit the TSTC Marshall “Placement Report” web page and take a look, not at fall 2013, which is not up yet, but fall 2012’s report. (It’s informative to see how these numbers are figured, even if the information is a bit dated.) After downloading that spreadsheet, look at the bottom line, which is in red, and go all the way to left side of that red line. Last year, Marshall had 70 graduates in the fall, and only 23 of them, 33%, found program-related positions. Moving to the next job column, the curious will find that 14 grads, or 20% more, found an unrelated job, which could be a good job, bad job, or in-between job. Moving to the right to the next section, or “Total Employed” category, visitors will find the program-related folks lumped in with the people who found any ol’ job out there for a  total of 37 grads who either found a job related to what they studied or one completely unrelated to the technology they were enrolled in at TSTC Marshall, bringing the total employment rate for fall 2012 to almost 53%.

The article in the Marshall News-Messenger just says “jobs,” and doesn’t say whether they’re program-related or not as it throws that big ol’ 81% out there for public consumption.

Next, visitors need to take in this statement by a TSTC official:

“The 81% placement mark is substantial, because it records placement at the beginning and during the semester and after graduation,” said Benji Cantu, TSTC director of career services.

Now, look at that fall 2012 report again and note the section for grads to continue their education somewhere else. THAT also goes into the last column for “Total Placed or Cont. Ed.” When one hears a Texas public technical college official start throwing the word “placement” around, that official is generally including absolutely everything: jobs related to the program studied, jobs not related, grads who went into the military, grads who transferred to another college, and those who found jobs whether or not the college had anything to do with actively “placing” them.  (For a full explanation of placement rates and employment rates, see my post titled “Texas Placement Rates for Public Two-Year Colleges Explained.”)

So now I’m going to have to clarify this article since it only mentions “jobs” without any adjectives or explanations on either side of that expectation-creating word and then goes on to bandy about the word “placement.” TSTC is about to get a Texas Public Information Act request. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, ask yourselves this: before making a life-changing decision, just how many people who need training to land a good job stop and think, “Oh, that placement rate includes jobs unrelated to the technical program, going to the military, transferring to another college, and students who weren’t placed but found a job on their own”?

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