Article 6: Educational Benchmark Study Update: A Bright Outlook for Engaged Students

The Educational Benchmark Study, conducted jointly by the Imagine America Foundation (IAF) and Wonderlic, is nearing completion. We already revealed some of our findings at the APSCU Annual Convention. Also, several articles summarizing the study results have appeared in earlier issues of Career College Central. In our earlier articles, we discussed what schools can do to increase student engagement based on our findings.

Student engagement is at the heart of our research because it has the greatest impact on educational outcomes. For example, higher levels of student engagement are associated with higher grade point averages, better attendance rates, and fewer dropped classes. In addition, higher levels of student engagement are associated with stronger intentions to pay back student loans, as well as more positive perceptions of career colleges. Taken together, it is not surprising that engaged students are more likely to graduate.

In addition to collecting data on students who are currently enrolled at career colleges, we also sampled graduates, drop-outs, and those who decided not to enroll. This creates fruitful comparisons between engaged students (graduates) and disengaged students (drop-outs). Indeed, as the graph below depicts, graduates of career colleges are more engaged than their counterparts.

The graph below depicts the employment status (unemployed, part-time employment, full-time employment) for each enrollment status category (current students, graduates, drop-outs, never enrolled).

Upon graduation, the vast majority of career college graduates are working full-time, and these graduates have the lowest rate of unemployment. Perhaps of main importance, our analyses also suggest that engaged students are more likely to be employed full-time when compared to disengaged students. That is, career college graduates are 1.5 times more likely to be employed full-time when compared to drop-outs (53% vs. 35%).

While career college graduates are more likely to be employed full-time, this is only part of the story. Another interesting finding from our analyses is that graduating conveys gainful employment. As the graph below shows, of those who are employed at least part-time, graduates are 5 times more likely to be employed within their field of study when compared to drop-outs (56% vs. 11%).

Given the recent amount of attention paid to the need for career colleges to better prepare students for gainful employment, our results are very promising. Overall, graduates are more likely to be employed full-time and within their field of study. Importantly, our model suggests that this is largely due to differences in student engagement. That is to say, engaged students are more likely to graduate and obtain gainful employment as compared to disengaged students. To this end, ensure that your students are engaged learners by focusing on improving your school resources and student characteristics.

In closing, we are nearing the completion of the Educational Benchmark Study. The information presented in our series of articles was intended to be a demonstration of some of the relationships we uncovered throughout our analyses. In time, we will disseminate additional, detailed findings through publications, presentations, and workshops. We will also offer webinars geared towards specific school departments (e.g., financial aid, student services, career development). In the immediate future, Wonderlic will begin to offer the Student Engagement Survey as a product for schools. As a user of the Student Engagement Survey, schools will be able to identify and prioritize problem areas, set baselines for measuring future improvement, validate school and program initiatives, and benchmark against other schools.

For more information on the Educational Benchmark Study, or to purchase the Student Engagement Survey for your school, please contact Lee Doubleday at or 571.267.3015.

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