The US Department of Education (USDE) considers graduation rates and post-graduate outcomes to be important indicators of quality; thus, as a recognized accreditor, CEPH is required to track post-graduate outcomes from its accredited schools and programs. USDE requires accreditors to provide evidence that they collect these data every year and take action when reported data do not meet the published minimum threshold.
CEPH understands that it is easiest to collect post-graduate information at the time of graduation and that response rates decline as time passes. However, the criteria state that graduates have up to one year to secure employment or pursue further education; collecting post-graduate information in a shorter timeframe may not provide an accurate picture of graduates' abilities to secure employment.
Also, note that CEPH does not require that data collection occur through traditional/formal survey methods or that data be collected at a single point in time. Some schools and programs prefer to collect information throughout students' final semester and during the first year post-graduation, updating data as each individual secures employment or proceeds to another education/training program. Such an approach allows schools and programs to present more accurate data as some secure employment or admission to further education before graduating and some take some time after graduation to do so.
CEPH recognizes how difficult it can be to stay in touch with graduates and to collect this kind of information. Consider the following point when communicating with alumni:
- Contact should come directly from the school/program, ideally from the department/concentration/specific degree program that the student completed, rather than from a university-based alumni association. Schools and programs report much higher response rates with personalized, decentralized data collection
- Social media can be extremely useful for maintaining connections with students and alumni. Research helpful hints and best practices for using social media
- Note that nearly all students have, and use, web-based e-mail addresses in addition to their university email accounts. Past concerns about maintaining valid contact information for students are less relevant, as schools and programs may collect these addresses while students are still enrolled
- Emphasize that a variety of constituents, including the government, prospective students and the public, are very interested in understanding employment rates as one important indicator of the value of a public health degree, and the need to report this information will likely continue to increase
- Build a relationship with alumni by including statements such as:
- The value of your degree is related to our accreditation status, and reporting student outcomes is important to maintaining accreditation
- We want to maintain a relationship with our graduates and create a two-way street for dialogue and program improvement. For example, we hope that your organization may be able to serve as a practice site for future students or as a collaborator in faculty research and service
- We look forward to staying in touch regarding continuing education opportunities
- We hope that you may be able to serve as a guest lecturer on an area of expertise
- We would like to build connections with our alumni so that current students can learn about specific employment sectors and positions