Waco’s Enrollment Drop: Check out Comments in Recent Post

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If you haven’t seen them, you ought to go to the post titled “TSTC Waco’s Dropping Enrollment & Its Classroom/Lab Average Percent Fill Rates” and click on the comments link. Ol’ “Petey Pablo” made a couple of observations and then invited me to say whatever it is I do to help higher ed.  Here’s an excerpt from my response:

Finally, Petey, you want to know what I’m doing to help higher ed? I just did it. By pointing out falling enrollment rather than whispering about it behind closed doors or burying it altogether, I hope to spur people into action to do something about it a little sooner, well before it gets so out of hand that people start losing their jobs and programs get shut down, denying students the chance to learn those technologies. I wish I had begun publishing about TSTC West Texas much, much earlier. That college’s first-time, full-time students fell from a high of 472 to a mere 26 at one point. Meanwhile, administrators pointed to cuts in continuing ed and such.

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TSTC Marshall’s Graduate Survey & Placement

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As my regular visitors already know, I follow media pronouncements by public technical colleges fairly closely and have been posting lately about one article in the Marshall News-Messenger in particular titled “TSTC Graduates 51, Four-Fifths Have Jobs.” See “TSTC Marshall Grad Jobs: the Story in the Paper vs. What Really Happened” and “More on TSTC Marshall Officials’ Statements” I got much of my information for my posts concerning Marshall’s placement from a Texas Public Information Act request. Marshall has since updated the report I received and posted the revised version online. Instead of a 49% employment rate in the field studied, Marshall now boasts a 53% program-related employment rate for fall 2013–still a little short of bragging territory. Here’s what I asked for in my December 2013 request:

In accordance with the Texas Public Information Act, please send to me any document or records that show the total number of TSTC Marshall graduates and completers for fall 2013 and break down that total to show the number of graduates and completers who landed a job related to their TSTC program of study, the number who landed a job unrelated to the program studied at TSTC Marshall, the number who continued their education by transferring to another college, and any other category TSTC may track such as those who entered the military. Further, if TSTC has records for the number of fall 2013 graduates or completers it actually placed or found jobs for as opposed to students’ finding their own jobs, please provide those records, as well.

By way of explanation and to inform your records search, the Marshall News-Messenger recently ran a story titled “TSTC Graduates 51, Four-Fifths Have Jobs.” That story reports that 81% have jobs. Pointedly, it does NOT say if those jobs are related to the program of study or not, nor does it indicate if that 81% includes students who transferred to another college, although when officials speak of “placement” or students being “placed,” which this article does, those who continued their education are generally included in the percentages reported to the public. Accordingly, I need a breakdown to clarify this report by the Marshall News-Messenger. TSTC Marshall posted such a breakdown for fall 2012 on its website. If such a report with the same sort of breakdown and categories is already prepared for fall 2013, providing that report will give me everything I’ve asked for in this request other than the number of grads actually placed by the college.  If no such report is prepared, then please provide alternate records that reflect that information.

What TSTC did actually send me truly satisfied everything EXCEPT “the number of grads actually placed by the college.” When I didn’t get that information and waited awhile to see if I would, I broke down and sent another query asking about it. I got back a response that said everything but “we don’t have that,” but that’s what it boiled down to. Neither TSTC Marshall nor the system could provide the number of grads Marshall actually placed versus those who went out and found a job on their own–even as officials touted that high placement rate at Marshall with officials pounding their chests about an 81% placement rate at the time.

Now, that second response from TSTC indicated that the information in the report included information from the graduate survey. Accordingly, I asked for a blank copy of the survey to see what TSTC Marshall graduates were asked. Click on the link below to see a multi-page TSTC graduate survey:

TSTC Marshall Graduate Placement Survey Spring 2014 140220

Those who examine the questions and other information TSTC asks for in the survey will see that TSTC wants to know where grads are working and if it’s program-related, among other things. Those are good questions, and I’m happy they’re on the survey; however, if they were actually placed by the college, I would think that information would already be recorded somewhere. Along those lines, there’s one question I don’t see: “Did you find this job on your own, or did the college or your college program assist you in finding this position?” That question would give the college its actual placement rate; that is, grads for whom it actually found jobs. That one isn’t there, though.

Since all public technical colleges in Texas get to claim extremely high “placement” rates because just about everything counts (e.g., jobs in the field studied, out of the field, military, and going to another college) and all that has to occur for grads to be “placed” is a Social Security number match in a database that the state monitors, technical colleges have very little motivation to track the number of grads they actually put into jobs through active placement efforts.

That inflated “placement” rate does not serve students’ interests at all. It does serve the colleges’ interests, however, doesn’t it? Does a prospective student who reads about that 81% “placement” rate in the Marshall News-Messenger have any idea that only 53% of Marshall’s students found program-related jobs? Does that student understand that state-figured “placement” rates are about Social Security number matches and not about the college actually placing grads? Even if Marshall’s report is based entirely on its own grad surveys, does that prospective student know that the placement rate touted in the newspaper includes jobs out of the field and grads going off to another college? Does anyone at Marshall, or any other Texas public technical college for that matter, point this stuff out during the enrollment process?

Prospective students and the public deserve better.

TSTC Waco’s Dropping Enrollment & Its Classroom/Lab Average Percent Fill Rates

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Continuing to examine TSTC Waco’s 46.5% annual headcount drop from 9,810 in FY 2010 to 5,252 in FY 2013, which, as we’ve seen, includes significant losses of technical students AND first-time, full-time students, let’s take a look at how it’s impacting classrooms and labs. To do that, we’ll be looking at a portion of TSTC Waco’s Space Utilization Efficiency reports and comparing them to the colleges in Waco’s peer group.

First, visitors should examine the image below, taken from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s website, which shows the fall 2010 SUE scores for all public colleges in Texas:

Space Usage Report Fall 2010

Space Usage Report Fall 2010

For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to skip over the demand and utilization scores, which are based on the number of classes and hours they’re offered and have only an indirect relationship to the number of students. (For example, you can have two classes for 60 students or two classes for 32. The curious can see how these scores are figured at this THECB website.) Instead, I’ll discuss the “average percent fill,” which is just what it sounds like: on average, how full were those classrooms and labs? As we can see from the image above, TSTC Waco’s fall 2010 classrooms and labs were relatively packed, with its classrooms 88% full and its labs hitting the 83% mark. Harlingen’s classrooms were 93% and the Lamar State College-Orange’s labs were 90% full, but those were the only two outfits that managed to get ahead of Waco at the time.

Now, let’s see how Waco did for the fall 2013 term by taking a look at the image below. Waco’s classroom fill rate was 69%, while its labs were at 77%. Its classroom fill rate dropped 19%, while its labs dropped about 6%. At least that drop in classroom average percent fill tracks fairly closely with the percentage drop of for-credit, technical student enrollment going from fall 2010 to fall 2013. According to the THECB’s Higher Education Accountability website, TSTC Waco had 4,741 for-credit, technical students enrolled for fall 2010 and 3,697 for fall 2013, a 22% drop. I’m not sure how a college’s for-credit, technical student enrollment can drop 22% but the lab average percent fill only drops 6%. If there were a ton of academic students, I’d have an answer right now, but Waco, according to the THECB, has relatively few, 235 in fall 2010 and 287 in 2013. I’ll have to think on that one awhile.

THECB Space Usage Efficiency Report Fall 2013 140218

One way as the other, TSTC Waco’s dropping average percent fill rates, whether classroom or lab but particularly that significantly lower classroom percentage, reflects its steadily dropping enrollment. Meanwhile, TSTC Harlingen is just percolating right along. For the most part, the other colleges in Waco’s peer group are either improving or remaining relatively steady. What’s happening at Waco?

TSTC Waco’s First-Time, Full-Time Students

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As shown in an earlier post, TSTC Waco’s annual, unduplicated student headcount has dropped over 45% since FY 2009, and this blog is busily drilling down into the components of that drop to try and figure out what’s happening over there. Today, we’ll look at first-time, full-time enrollment and how that number has performed since 2009.  Click on the image below to enlarge a screen shot of a query I made at the Texas Higher Education Accountability website:

Lamars and TSTCs First-Time Full-Time Students Fall 2009-2013

Lamars and TSTCs First-Time Full-Time Students Fall 2009-2013

Just looking at the numbers, it’s apparent almost everybody lost at least a little bit, but the Lamar Institute of Technology and Texas State Technical College Waco both lost a pretty big chunk going from 2009 to 2013. (Since LIT’s annual, unduplicated headcount AND its fall semester technical student count have remained fairly steady over time in comparison to TSTC Waco, I’m not going to give LIT’s big, first-time, full-time student drop much attention in this particular post.) Lamar state College-Port Arthur lost 3.9% of this demographic, Lamar State college-Orange dropped 8.5%, and TSTC Marshall lost 8.6% of its first-time, full-time students. The remaining colleges managed double-digits: LIT lost 43.5%, TSTC Waco 41.2%, and TSTC West Texas 24.4% from 2009 to 2013. On the other hand, TSTC Harlingen’s double-digits were in the POSITIVE range, with that fortunate, apparently well-managed college gaining–gaining–22% of this critical demographic.  Let’s see how it looks in a graph (click on the image to enlarge):

Lamars and TSTCs First-Time Full-Time Students Fall 2009-Fall 2013 140207

Lamars and TSTCs First-Time Full-Time Students Fall 2009-Fall 2013

This graph rather dramatically reveals TSTC Waco’s fall. The college went from having about twice the first-time, full-time students of any other college in its peer group in the fall of 2009 to plummeting downward to the tune of over 500 students and being surpassed in this category, albeit by just a handful of students, by TSTC Harlingen and its steadily rising first-time, full-time student numbers by the fall of 2013. Of course, TSTC Harlingen has that large contingent of academic students that TSTC Waco and the other TSTCs lack. Academic numbers aside, however, TSTC Harlingen’s technical student numbers have risen dramatically, as well, as visitors saw in Wednesday’s post. Harlingen is doing something right.

So let’s be clear here. The evidence already shows that TSTC Waco’s drop isn’t just about “unimportant” or “fringe” demographics like continuing education or high school dual credit. No sir. This is about TSTC Waco’s bread and butter: technical students and first-time, full-time students. Let us not forget that full-time students are the folks who, besides paying big tuition bucks for full class schedules, live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, spend big bucks in the bookstore, and generally spread money around the campus. Losing these students hurts and hurts badly.

Let’s hope that TSTC Waco is taking steps to correct this trend. Maybe Waco folks need to talk to Harlingen. Could that be why the Harlingen president’s former chief of staff has suddenly become a senior Waco official? [NOTE: This post originally stated incorrectly that Harlingen’s former chief of staff had become Waco’s VP for student learning. An article in the Waco Tribune-Herald stated he is a vice provost.] Waco needs new ideas, and I suspect this former Harlingen guy has a few.

TSTC Waco’s Falling Enrollment

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Yesterday, in a post titled “Tech Colleges’ Annual Unduplicated Student Headcount thru FY 2013,” I tripped across a rather startling discovery: TSTC Waco’s headcount had dropped over 45% since FY 2010.  Accordingly, it’s time to drill down and look at that drop a little more. Today, I’ll be examining technical student (as opposed to academic) enrollment across fall semesters. The following image is the result of an interactive query I made on the Texas Higher Education Accountability website:

Lamars and TSTCs Technical Students 2009-2013

Lamars and TSTCs Technical Students 2009-2013

Once again, the Lamars remained fairly steady over time. The Lamar Institute of Technology’s fall 2013 count reflects a drop of a couple of hundred students since fall 2009, but its 2013 count is still an uptick from fall 2012. All’s relatively well on the Lamar side of the fence.

For the most part, things aren’t so bad on the TSTC side of the fence, either. Marshall’s count has dropped significantly from FY 2009, but its FY 2013 count is an uptick from FY 2012, so it looks to me like it is recovering. Even the troubled TSTC college in West Texas has a count on the rise again. And Harlingen? It’s technical student count has jumped over 600 students since fall 2009 and almost 600 from fall 2012 to fall 2013 alone.  Again those are technical students, so Harlingen’s droves of academic students aren’t affecting this particular comparison. The bottom line is that 3 of the 4 TSTC colleges experienced increased fall semester enrollment in 2013.

Then there’s TSTC Waco. Its for-credit, technical student, fall semester count since FY 2009 has done nothing but drop, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Click on the image below to enlarge a chart based on the data obtained from the interactive query and image discussed above:

Chart Lamars and TSTCs Technical Student Fall Enrollment 2009-2013

Chart Lamars and TSTCs Technical Student Fall Enrollment 2009-2013

As the chart above demonstrates, everybody had their ups and downs, but most aren’t horribly far from where they started in fall 2009, the period of this comparison. On the other hand, TSTC Harlingen and TSTC Waco really stand out here. TSTC Harlingen’s rising technical student line is heading upward toward TSTC Waco’s falling line. That’s not bad for a campus that once had less than half the technical students of Waco. (Is there a new TSTC flagship campus in the system’s future?) From fall 2009 to fall 2010 and fall 2010 to fall 2011, Waco lost a few students, but relatively few in comparison to the much larger losses going from fall 2011 to fall 2012 and fall 2012 to fall 2013. It will be interesting to see what fall 2014 numbers look like at Waco and if this disturbing trend continues. Taking a page out of the playbook at TSTC West Texas, Waco officials might or might not try to point at the new Returned Value Funding Model as the reason for these drops, but the other three TSTC colleges’ numbers, even West Texas’s, were on the rise in 2013, and they’re on the new funding model, too. Something else, I suspect, is afoot here.  I just don’t know what yet.

The analysis will continue.

Tech Colleges’ Annual Unduplicated Student Headcount thru FY 2013

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Texas colleges, including Texas’s public technical colleges, have submitted their annual accountability reports, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has been pretty quick about putting numbers online on its Higher Education Accountability website. Accordingly, I’ll be examining those numbers with my visitors for a bit.

For my first thrust at the new numbers, I’ll discuss annual unduplicated student headcount, looking back to 2009 and checking out any trends. Click on the image below to enlarge the screen shot of my query for the colleges in the tech college cohort:

Annual Unduplicated Student Headcount FY 2009 - FY 2013 Source: Higher Education Accountability System

Annual Unduplicated Student Headcount FY 2009 – FY 2013 Source: Higher Education Accountability System

From FY 2009 to FY 2013, the annual unduplicated student headcount changed as follows:

Lamar State College Port Arthur: Up 1,061 students for a 26.5% increase

Lamar State College Orange: Up 659 students for a 21.9% increase

Lamar Institute of Technology: Up 218 students for a .03% increase

TSTC Harlingen: Down 1,318 students for a 12.7% decrease

TSTC Marshall: Down 542 students for a 28.9% decrease

TSTC Waco: Down 2,527 students for a 32.4% decrease

TSTC West Texas: Down 1,041 students for a 27.5% decrease

All the Lamars gained students, with Port Arthur gaining the largest percentage; all the TSTCs lost them, with TSTC Waco losing the largest percentage, which is relatively surprising to me in view of TSTC West Texas’s recent problems.

NOW, let’s do largely the same computations, but instead of figuring increases and decreases since FY 2009 for everybody, let’s take the highest total from whatever fiscal year during the period and compare that to FY 2013’s total. Since none of these colleges had its high year in FY 2013, they all show a drop (click on the image to enlarge):

Percentage Drop in Annual Unduplicated Student Headcount from High-Year (FY 2009 thru FY 2013) to FY 2013

Percentage Drop in Annual Unduplicated Student Headcount from High-Year (FY 2009 thru FY 2013) to FY 2013

Again, in view of TSTC West Texas’s recent past, that 54% drop from its high year in 2009 doesn’t surprise me a bit, but TSTC Waco’s 46.5% drop from its high in FY 2010 really got my attention. That’s a mighty big drop. Falls like that are usually accompanied by a bit of public fanfare, but this ‘un seems to be under the media radar.

This blog will be examining this and other issues in future posts as my analysis of the latest data on the Higher Education Accountability website continues.

More on TSTC Marshall Officials’ Statements

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As I promised in my 1/15/2014 post, “TSTC Marshall Grad Jobs: the Story in the Paper vs. What Really Happened,” it’s time to take yet another hard look at the Marshall News Messenger‘s 12/12/2013 article titled “TSTC Graduates 51, Four-Fifths Have Jobs.” Specifically, my visitors need to examine the quote below:

More important than our commencement ceremony on Friday night, is whether our graduates will go to work on Monday morning,” [TSTC Marketing and Communications Director Baily Atchley] Atchley said. “Our consistently high job placement numbers is a real testament to how outstanding our graduates are.

This new and frankly revolutionary funding formula is a positive for our students, industry partners and Texas as a whole.

“Our consistently high job placement numbers” got my attention. Now, the number the article throws out there for public consumption is 81% “placement” for the fall 2013 term. OK. 81% sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Of course, as my previous post already exposes, that 81% consists of jobs in the field studied, jobs OUT of the field studied, joining the military, and even transfers to another college. I don’t believe most people even suspect that. I haven’t done a scientific survey, but of the dozens of folks I’ve asked about it over several years, not one knew what was included in that placement rate. Not one. That’s old news, though. Let’s see how TSTC Marshall has performed over time. Please examine the image below (click on it to enlarge):

TSTCs and Lamars Graduate Success or Placement Rates 2004-2011

TSTCs and Lamars Graduate Success or Placement Rates 2004-2011

Now, the above image, taken from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s “Higher Education Accountablity System” website, only has information through FY 2011, and those numbers are for the entire fiscal year (fall thru summer terms), while the 81% being bandied about in the article is for the fall 2013 term only. Having said all that, of the seven colleges in the state’s technical college peer group, TSTC Marshall is slugging it out with the Lamar State College Orange for next-to-last place. All the other TSTCs and Lamars have their all-inclusive placement rates in the 90’s. The statewide average was 91.1% in FY 2011. That “consistently high” comment only resonates with people who don’t know the whole story. It’s like some guy coming in next-to-last in the 50-yard dash banging his chest about his great time. It only sounds good if you don’t know the other guys’ times.

Another TSTC official, Benji Cantu, the Director of Career Services, also gives credit to the new funding model for TSTC Marshall’s fine placement record. Yeah. Sure thing. Marshall’s FY 2011 rate was 82.4%. It was 81% for fall 2013. That’s quite an improvement. And this quote is a rather curious admission: “We no longer get them here and train them and then let them fend for themselves after they graduate.” What? They allowed students to “fend for themselves”? But wait! They’ve been bragging about “placement ” for years. In fact, the Marshall News Messenger, in a 6/6/2012 article titled “TSTC First College in Nation to Fund by Results,” published a 90% placement rate for the college. “TSTC” did have around a 90% placement rate (for what that all-inclusive rate is worth when technical colleges throw it around), but NOT TSTC Marshall. In fact, as TSTC Marshall records reveal, TSTC Marshall had a mere 78% all-inclusive placement rate for the spring 2012 term, which it had recently finished at the time of the article’s publication. The number of grads who had jobs, whether related or not to the program studied, was just 64%. The previous semester’s numbers for fall 2011 were 78% (all-inclusive placement rate) and 62% (employed whether related or not related to the program studied). To see the TSTC Marshall reports for fall 2011 and spring 2012, obtained through a Texas Public Information Act request, click on the images below:

TSTC Marshall Placement Report Fall 2011

TSTC Marshall Placement Report Fall 2011

TSTC Marshall Spring 2012 Placement Report

TSTC Marshall Spring 2012 Placement Report

When the Marshall News Messenger interviewed TSTC Marshall President Randall Wooten for that June 2012 article, Mr. Wooten pointed out the difference between technical colleges and community colleges, to wit: “The [new funding] formula works very well for TSTC whose job it is to put people to work. It doesn’t work well for a community college because their primary job is to take students and move them from a 2 year institution to a 4 year institution.” With that difference in mind, then public technical colleges, “whose job it is to put people to work,” shouldn’t be quoting “placement” statistics that include transfers to other colleges. President Wooten also said in the same article, ““People come here for skills.” They sure do; they come for specific skills expecting to go to work in a specific occupation. They don’t hope to gain, for example, computer systems networking administration skills, and then go to work as a department store cashier. Those grads, however, count as “placed,” as well, since all that has to occur is a Social Security number match in a database the state either maintains or monitors.

Technical colleges and community colleges, as President Wooten indicated, are different. Texas public technical colleges need to stop using those “placement” stats better suited to community colleges, start coming clean with the public and start using PROGRAM-RELATED employment rates. As I’ve said before, the vast majority of people attend technical colleges to get a specific skill-set for a specific technical occupation. On 3/15/2012 TSTC Chancellor Mike Reeser said it best for the Texas Tribune: “We have no casual students,” he said. “We have no students who go just to pick up a class or two.”

TSTC Marshall’s program-related employment rate was 49% for fall 2013. Prospective students need to know that BEFORE enrolling and very possibly  racking up student debt. TSTC colleges have already stopped using the state’s method of funding community colleges because technical colleges are about employment and not transfers. Now they need to stop using “placement” stats that suit community colleges’ mission but not technical colleges’. Texas students deserve better.

Lamars and TSTCs Annual Unduplicated Enrollment FY 2012

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This isn’t exactly an earth-shattering post here, but I was curious about the proportion of academic to technical students at the various state-owned tech schools, particularly the Lamars, so I wandered off and queried the Texas Higher Education Accountability System run by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The image below was the result of my curiosity (click on it to enlarge).

Academic and Technical Student Numbers for FY 2012 as Reported by the Texas Higher Education Accountability System

Academic and Technical Student Numbers for FY 2012 as Reported by the Texas Higher Education Accountability System

The two Lamar state colleges, as opposed to the Lamar Institute of Technology, have a relatively large proportion of academic students, but what really leaped out at me was Harlingen’s numbers. TSTC Harlingen had almost 1300 more academic students than it had technical students. That “technical college” is more of a community college if these numbers mean anything. TSTC Harlingen is obviously serving a need in South Texas, so good for the folks working there. Working both sides of the fence also has made TSTC Harlingen a bit more resilient than other TSTC colleges to economic and policy shifts. While TSTC West Texas was being blown around like a tumbleweed, plummeting from 476 first-time, full-time students to a mere 26 in that key demographic at one point, Harlingen’s deep academic and technical roots kept the college flourishing. I also think TSTC Harlingen’s no-nonsense president, President Cesar Maldonado, had a little something to do with that, as well.

I was a little surprised to see Marshall’s academic students amount to almost 34% of its total student population, too.  Perhaps that has something to do with its more rural setting.

It looks to me like the “purest” technical college, in terms of sticking closest to its technical education mission, is the Lamar Institute of Technology. It had only 26 academic students in 2012. That was way less than 1%, specifically a miniscule .006%, of its total student population.

All in all, it was an eye-opening little query.  I’ll be posting about TSTC Marshall and a claim made by one of its officials soon. Keep an eye on the blog!

TSTC Marshall Grad Jobs: the Story in the Paper vs. What Really Happened

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Back on December 12, 2013, the Marshall News Messenger treated the reading public to an article titled “TSTC Graduates 51, Four-Fifths Have Jobs.” That headline very, oh-so-explicitly says that 4 out of five TSTC grads have “jobs.” Note, once again, dear readers, that there are no adjectives around the word “job”–words like “in their field of study,” or “technical” or “program-related.” Nada. For that reason and because when officials start slinging the word “placement’ around, they’re usually including students who transferred to another college, I was concerned about the accuracy of the article. Accordingly, I sent a Texas Public Information Act request to get the facts. I’ve got at least some of them now. Click on the image below to enlarge it:

TSTC Marshall Fall 2013 Placement Report

TSTC Marshall Fall 2013 Placement Report

As my site visitors can readily see, four-fifths of TSTC Marshall’s fall 2013 grads did NOT have jobs. 49%, a bit less than half of the grads, actually landed a job related to their program of study, and another 25% landed an unrelated job of some sort, whether at a fast-food joint or some other place. That means that 74%, not quite 3 out of 4, had “a job.” That “four-fifths” or 81% that the story and officials throw around so happily also includes students who transferred to another college. The real headline here is that less than half found a job related to the TSTC program for which they spent a year or two studying and may still be on the hook to pay for if they’ve got student loans.

For those who regularly visit my site, particularly the occasional TSTC official, let me ask you this: just how many kids who need a job and are thinking about going to TSTC stop and think, “Oh, that 81% includes jobs in the field studied, jobs out of the field studied, the military, and students who transfer to another college”? How many? Of course, it’s hard to brag about only 49% getting a program-related job, isn’t it?

Prospective students deserve full disclosure.

LIT & “Placement”: Where’s the Chest Pounding?

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The Lamar Institute of Technology doesn’t appear to be pounding its chest over those inflated, state-figured “placement” rates like the state’s other technical colleges, those in the Texas State Technical College system, do in the media all the time. If LIT does, my automatic Google search isn’t bringing it back to me. Oh, I’ve found a couple of instances, but a tech college watcher has to work at it. For instance, one media article says LIT had a placement rate of 99.3%, but it was written in 2009. Another article, written in 2012, stakes out an 80-85% rate for LIT. The moral of this little tale is that I just don’t see a lot of placement rate chest pounding going on over at LIT. Since LIT doesn’t even know how well its grads are doing in terms of getting jobs related to their program of study, I figure that’s a good thing. I have to wonder just how many prospective students hear those high placement rates, even if they’re only thrown out there now and then or second-hand, and figure that, if they enroll, they’ll have a 99.3% (or 80-85%) chance of landing a job in their field of study? How many know that “placement” includes jobs in the field studied, jobs out of the field studied, joining the military, and transferring to another college? How many know the placement rate includes students the college helped place AND those it had nothing to do with placing into a job? How many know that a 90% placement rate is just average–mediocre–in the state of Texas since nearly everything counts? (For a more full explanation with links to sources, see “Texas “Placement” Rates for Public, Two-Year Colleges Explained.”) As I said, I think it is a positive thing for a Texas public technical college to NOT brag about that bogus placement rate. It is misleading, and the Texas Workforce Commission, which oversees private career schools, would shut a private outfit down for making the same claims that a public college, overseen by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, often makes.  See what happened when the Texas Workforce Commission alleged a misrepresentation of employment rates by opening the link here.  Click on the highlighted text to view a portion of Form PS-005, which reveals the information private career schools must disclose to prospective students before enrollment. Why the state does not require Texas public technical colleges to disclose this information escapes me. Could it be because the state, the “owner” of public colleges, after all, also writes the rules?

Kudos to LIT for the restraint it is apparently showing. Having said that, just to make sure I haven’t missed something, I’ve sent LIT a Texas Public Information Act request that asks for any records concerning any public pronouncements of that inflated placement rate, including any web pages on its site. (I couldn’t find anything there, either!) I asked for records concerning statements in calendar year 2013. I’m hoping that request turns up dry.

As opposed to those who attend a traditional community college, the vast majority of students attend a technical college to gain some specific, industry-related skills and get a job–period. They don’t go there to land a job doing something they did NOT study for or did not even need to study for, to join the military after graduation, or to prep for Harvard. Prospective technical college students need accurate information before they make a life-changing, not to mention expensive, decision. That placement rate, when tech college administrators throw it out there for media consumption, is simply misleading and is not about student welfare. It’s about tech colleges’ bottom lines and pulling in more students.