Graduate satisfaction is driven by more than getting a good job
Getting a good job is a proven driver of college graduate satisfaction, but according to a new report written by two researchers at the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), it is not the only thing that counts. From the currency of the course material to the quality of instruction, what happens during their courses is almost as important to graduate satisfaction as what happens later in the job market.
What are the Influencers of Graduate Satisfaction and Labour Market Outcomes on Ontario College Graduates? An Analysis of Ontario’s College Graduate Satisfaction Survey Results analyzed overall graduate satisfaction using the 2001-02 to 2006-07 Graduate Satisfaction Survey, mandated by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) and administered by a third party to all college graduates six months after graduation. The study looked at whether factors such as institution size, region, program mix, demographics of graduates had an impact on college graduate satisfaction, employment, and earnings.
Not surprisingly, for the employed graduates, those who earn more, obtain a job related to their field, or have a job that matches their qualifications are the most satisfied.
Many people think that graduate satisfaction is driven by a) graduates getting good jobs, and b) variables like the location or size of the institution. This report finds that course-related specifics have just as much an impact on graduates’ satisfaction. After controlling for labour market outcomes, it is evident that satisfaction is influenced by various aspects of educational quality, be it course content, quality of instruction, or developing skills and abilities specific to the job. In contrast, employed graduates’ satisfaction was not directly affected by the graduate’s age, gender, field of study, credential type, institution size or region.
When influencers on earnings were analyzed a very different scenario emerged. Graduating from health or technology fields resulted in higher earnings. Also, being male, or being older, led to higher hourly earnings, even after accounting for the graduate’s field of study. However, satisfaction with teaching quality or satisfaction with skills gained did not impact earnings. In fact, graduates who earned more were more satisfied with “soft skills” such as critical thinking and problem solving skills.
One of the questions posed at the beginning of the report was whether a college can impact its graduate satisfaction rate. Efforts by institutions to raise students’ satisfaction with teaching and learning should increase overall graduate satisfaction. Additionally, colleges should continue to align their program offerings with long term labour market trends; colleges and the government should inform potential applicants early about labour market prospects.
Another question explored was whether a college can influence its graduates’ employment rates. Due to lack of data, the survey could not determine whether a college could do so; however, it did show that both credential type and field of study can impact employment rate. Since employment rate is currently linked to performance funding through the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), it is suggested that if comparisons between colleges are to be made, they should be made across similar credentials and programs.
The report was written by Ursula McCloy, Research Director and Shuping Liu, Research Analyst of HEQCO.