Today's students and their families routinely seek straightforward, reliable information on success and outcomes for graduates as part of the college selection process. A proliferation of new rankings purporting to measure return on investment have sprung up in response, with most relying on data from severely limited volunteer samples to represent the employment and earnings of alumni by their undergraduate alma mater.
Against this backdrop, American University realized it has a distinct advantage. For years, AU has been able to track the next destination of 75 percent of new alumni within six months of completing their degrees. This completion rate is unusually high for a university of our size, and is a credit to the positive engagement of our students and new graduates with AU, and the hard work of the team collecting the data.
Even more powerful than the comprehensiveness of the data is the consistently good story they tell about AU:
Nine out of ten AU grads earning a bachelor's degree are employed, enrolled in graduate school, or both, within six months of graduation.
85 percent of those who are working hold jobs related to their degree.
AU grads work in all sectors, and not surprisingly, given our mission and history, nearly half of those who earned a bachelor's degree work in the non-profit and government sectors.
AU graduates who are working provide starting salary ranges, an early indicator of success.
Those enrolled in graduate school are enrolled in master's and PhD programs at excellent universities.
Similarly strong employment and salary outcomes are reported by students earning master's degrees, with nine of out ten working after graduation.
Now we will put these powerful data in the hands of future students and families, so that they can search by degree level or program and see for themselves how well AU graduates fare after completing their degree. We are proud to introduce—first to the AU community, and then to prospective students and families—a new site called We KNOW Success: Where AU Graduates Land.
We have taken the data from the Classes of 2011, 2012 and 2013, and presented them in a site that can be searched to reveal where AU graduates are working, what they are earning, and where they are enrolled in graduate study, within six months of graduation. The information is presented in searchable form with animation, infographics and video that will effectively engage prospective students. The site is rounded out with success stories of graduates who are active citizens, using their knowledge to create meaningful change.
While instructive, this site has its limits. It provides helpful and specific answers to direct questions about economic returns in the earliest stages of life beyond college, but it cannot capture the full value of a degree—economically or in other measures of quality of life, realized over a lifetime. We know that AU graduates in all sectors are making meaningful contributions and that success and satisfaction are derived only in part by economic considerations. Doing what they love and doing what matters come through loud and clear in the success stories of the graduates we present on this site.
Yet economic considerations cannot be dismissed. Though nearly half of AU undergraduate students graduate with no student debt whatsoever, those that borrow have an average debt upon graduation in line with the national average for private universities. (It is worth noting that while the average debt nationally has increased 25 percent over the last five years, at AU, average debt has declined 21 percent, largely due to improved financial aid and financial literacy programs.) In an era when debt to earnings ratios are being considered to guide questions of value, financial planners often advise that debt should be capped at no more than first year starting salary. This site will support informed decisions about affording an AU degree and enable better information about starting salaries and early employment prospects.
There are a few other limits to the data and our site. Data for law school graduates and MBA graduates have strict parameters prescribed by their respective professional association or accrediting body that don't allow us to report data from this survey, so they are not included. PhD graduates are not included in the survey results, in part because the period of six months is not as meaningful for those pursuing post-doctoral fellowships and tenure track positions.
In addition, a handful of degree programs have so few graduates or responses within the three graduating classes that there are too few cases to reliably generalize results for that program. In these instances, we roll up the reported results to the next largest related cluster of graduates.
We are proud that AU is among the first universities to present simple, direct, specific and reliable information on the early and successful outcomes of graduates who earn undergraduate and master's degrees.
AU's strategic plan, Leadership for a Changing World, outlines goals and objectives for the next decade at American University. Visit american.edu/strategicplan for more information. (myAU.american.edu login required for some documents)