The 5 metrics colleges and universities should measure to boost their value

"The goal is that as states make targeted improvements in the five priority areas, more graduates experience a positive return on their investment in education after high school and that pathways to opportunity become more equitable," the report reads. 

Colleges and universities must create more robust data networks to efficiently analyze their graduates’ occupational outcomes and ensure that more of their credentials can serve today’s high-growth industries, declares an inaugural report from the Strada Education Foundation, an education company focused on increasing upward mobility.

The “State Opportunity Index” urges higher education leaders to move beyond their enrollment and completion metrics to examine how they prepare their students to succeed in the next chapter of their lives. Strada assessed each state’s performance using five key metrics to determine how well their public higher education institutions support this mission.

“The goal is that as states make targeted improvements in the five priority areas, more graduates experience a positive return on their investment in education after high school and that pathways to opportunity become more equitable,” the report read.

Researchers analyzed self-reported survey responses from state agency staff and two- and four-year graduates and performed extensive reviews of publicly available information for the report.

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Clear outcomes

Strada identified 10 elements that state data systems can leverage to strengthen the connection between education and opportunity. Data systems should focus on collecting student- and program-level data, integrating education and employment data to establish data-sharing partnerships, providing said data efficiently to all stakeholders and ensuring it drives impact to help leaders understand how to best fill talent shortages and develop in-demand programs.

The majority of states are doing reasonably well at categorizing education-to-employment data systems. Georgia, Colorado, Minnesota, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island are leading the country, the report found.

There was still much room for improvement. Specifically, one of the least common elements state systems offered were services that helped students understand which education-to-employment insights would be the most economically beneficial. Likewise, only a few states provide insights into postsecondary programs’ occupational outcomes.

Employer alignment

Jobs in in information technology and business, health care, and manufacturing and engineering are considered the country’s most high-wage and in-demand jobs. After calculating the supply/demand ratio of these “opportunity jobs,” researchers found that no states meet their highest criteria for “leading” employer alignment at this time.

Alabama, Rhode Island, Utah, and West Virginia provided the most opportunities. Alaska, Montana, and New Hampshire did the worst.

Quality coaching

Researchers examined which state systems incorporate career planning within and throughout education programs for both academic progress and career advancement; doing so within the curriculum ensures these opportunities are available to all students.

About one-quarter of graduates from two-year institutions and one-fifth of graduates from four-year institutions experienced helpful coaching. This is a concerning metric, considering that among those who received coaching, 63% of students expressed satisfaction with progress toward long-term goals. On the other hand, only 42% of students who didn’t receive coaching expressed the same.

Among the four states producing the highest number of four-year graduates, Florida ranked first in providing quality coaching (22%), followed by Texas (21%) and California and New York (18%).


Strada aimed to understand which states would allow students to work their way through college and pay off their net price of tuition, fees and living expenses after aid distribution.

California and Washington were found to be the most affordable, allowing students to cover the price of college by working less than 10 hours per week. On the other hand, students in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Dakota wouldn’t be able to cover their college costs even if they worked more than 30 hours per week during the school year and full-time over the summer.

Work-based learning

Also known as internships, co-ops, practicums or apprenticeships, work-based learning provides students with structured work experiences and exposes them to their work environment before graduation. The report made an effort to distinguish paid internships from those that do not offer wages.

It was found that graduates who completed a paid internship are 29 percentage points more likely to have a first job that requires a degree than their non-paid internship counterparts. Furthermore, the former is 17 percentage points more likely to be satisfied with their job than the latter.

Nationally, 26% of the nationally surveyed four-year graduates experienced a paid internship.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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