WHEELING - The numbers are in, and the results are promising.
Wheeling Jesuit University has reconnected with all but 13 members of the Class of 2012 to learn that 92 percent of that year's graduates are either employed in a field requiring their diploma or in graduate school furthering their education.
Beginning in May 2013, one year after the class graduated, Executive Director of Alumni and Communications Kelly Klubert began working with the university's Alumni Council to contact members of the Class of 2012 via email survey, phone, social media and alumni connections maintained with faculty. Asked questions focused on graduates' employment and education status.
Outcomes showed 76 percent of the university's 2012 graduates employed in fields requiring their diploma; 15 percent in graduate school; one percent working while in graduate school; and two percent unemployed. The university was unable to reach the remaining six percent, but continues efforts to do so.
The data is the type of outcome information WJU President Rev. James Fleming believes parents of prospective students want to know.
"Nationally, people are asking very good questions about whether or not college is worth it. The question is, do people who get a college diploma actually see a benefit in their salaries?," Fleming said, citing research from the Association of American Colleges and Universities that found the median annual income for undergraduates with a liberal arts degree grows faster than for those in professional or pre-professional fields.
"At the peak of their career, liberal arts graduates are making $2,000 more a year than their non-liberal arts peers," Fleming said, adding the problem-solving skills learned at liberal arts schools are believed to be a contributing factor to that difference. Further, a graduate degree can add up to $15,000 in salary mid-career.
Fleming highlighted graduation rates, debt and debt default as key components of university evaluation. He said WJU's numbers, while matching the national average in terms of student debt, come in much lower than average on debt default due to so many graduates being able to find jobs. The university has a high graduation rate, and, compared to competitors, a low debt default rate in the National Center for Education Statistics' most recent 2010 listing on College Navigator.
From a communications perspective, the employment and education results for the Class of 2012 speak volumes about the school's ability to maintain contact with graduates, according to Klubert.
"We always say that we're a family here. Our alumni want to stay involved in Wheeling Jesuit," she said, adding the benefit in having such data far outweighs the amount of time and effort needed to collect it. She also credited Alumni Council member Nikki Donahue-Dunkin as integral in the final stretch of data collection.
The university plans to continue its one-year-out study next with the Class of 2013.