At new faculty orientation this summer an administrator was talking about sustaining excellence on campus in difficult economic times. One example of excellence was the high number of recent graduates who were either employed or enrolled in graduate or professional programs. This accounting method is not unique to my new institution, but as graduate degrees in many fields become less likely to lead to employment in academia, I couldn’t help but feel that the administration was passing the buck on our graduates by making their future unemployment somebody else’s problem.
This is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It would be easy to report the percentage of recent graduates who are employed, the number in graduate schools, and the number in professional schools. In fact, these numbers are available if you dig around on the school website (at least as basic “employed” vs. “grad school” stats). For the past several years, about a quarter of recent graduates have gone to grad school. I suppose, though, that focusing on those who go to graduate school is similar to pointing out a flat tire on a car with no engine since the category of “employed” itself is not defined in any way that lets readers know if these graduates have full-time jobs related to their degrees or are working part-time at a local coffee shop.
On the other hand, my previous institution provides no data about graduate outcomes other than the fact that roughly 1/5 of graduates apply to graduate programs. I guess that some data are better than no data, even if those data are vague.