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Frequently Asked Questions

Post-Completions Wages of Graduates (FAQ)

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Where are the reports located? See The Guide to the Post-Completion Wages of Graduates.

What is the source and basis of the data used in these reports? The simplest answer is that these data come from VLDS (Virginia Longitudinal Data System). VLDS is a collaborative effort between SCHEV, the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Employment Commission, the workforce division of the Virginia Community College System, and the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. Through VLDS each agency makes available individual-level, de-identified that allows us securely track outcomes of students across the state without violating privacy or confidentiality.

What influences the reported wages? Many factors affect how much an individual graduate earns that go well beyond either the institution or program from where they earned a degree or other credential. These factors may include the mission and nature of the employing organization, cost of living differences between communities, and others, even individual preferences. Not everyone chooses to maximize wages over all other considerations, such as proximity to family or a particular lifestyle.

What do these data tell us? With all the limits and caveats, these data confirm the national survey regarding the differences in earning based on levels of degree attainment. They also confirm the expected differences in wages based on program of study. Those differences are more likely to reflect the results of a variety of choices made the graduate more than the characteristics of the program itself. These data do provide evidence of the likely ability of a graduate with student loans to be able to begin repaying those loans after graduation.

Are there things I should be particularly mindful of when reviewing these data? Most assuredly, one should be particularly mindful of the fact that these data do not tell the entire story of what choices graduates of a given program make. The data we to which we have access is limited to graduates employed in Virginia in positions subject to protection by unemployment insurance. This is fully described on each page of the reports. Further, we do not have information on graduates who are pursued higher level enrollment outside of Virginia, or in proprietary institutions within Virginia or out-of-state institutions offering programs in Virginia. We also do not know why graduates choose specific enrollment or employment options.

What conclusions should I not reach from these data? First and foremost, one should not reach the conclusion that one program is better academically than another, simply because the wages of their graduates appear to be higher. That difference may be reflecting the impacts of region or employer dominance within the employed graduates on either the high end or the low end.



What is the VLDS?

What agencies make up the VLDS? Currently the VLDS is composed of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), and the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA). Other partners are expected to join in 2013 and beyond.

Do the wage reports reflect the entire VA workforce? No. As the footnotes on the report pages explain, the wage data are restricted to individuals who work in positions subject to reporting to the Virginia Employment Commission.

What employers are subject to the Unemployment Tax and must be registered and file with the Virginia Employment Commission? They must have met one of the following criteria:

One or more employees (ten employees if your operation is agricultural) for some portion of a day during any 20 different weeks in a calendar year A $1,500 or more total gross quarterly payroll ($20,000 if your business is agricultural; $1,000 if domestic labor) Acquired a business subject to this tax* Been subject to the Federal Unemployment Tax You are a governmental operation or poltical subdivision A nonprofit organization under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and had four or more employees for some portion of a day during any 20 different weeks in a calendar year*

These criteria mean that individuals working as consultants, independent contractors (including many psychologists, counselors, barbers, and cosmetologists) may be excluded, as are a list of others that may be found here.

What percentage of graduates are captured in these reports? All graduates from all public and private, nonprofit colleges and universities are captured in the reports. However, not all graduates have wage records and this percentage varies greatly across institutions, degree levels, and programs. Further, the wage calculations exclude graduates with part-time wages and those enrolled in higher level programs following completion.

what are the primary reasons why a student would be missing in this report? Students are only likely to missing from the wage calculations of the report and are thus reported in the category of "No Information" if they also show no enrollment in Virginia at a higher level. The reasons for this include - enrolling in institutions outside of Virginia, working for employers that do not report report to the Virginia Employment Commission (federal government, military), working in positions not subject to reporting to the Virginia Employment Commission, self-employed, entrepreneurs, and of course, individuals not employed or pursuing other activities.

Are programs with the same CIP code comparable across institutions in terms of course content and other factors that employers look for? CIP, or more completely, Classification of Instructional Programs, is a taxonomy of programs developed the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to create a standard method of describing programs. While the classification scheme is fairly robust after several decades of use, there can still be a great deal of difference across programs. For example, the basic content may be nearly identical and follow the same textbooks, one program may emphasize a much different aspect of the topic than another. Further, when comparing bachelor-level programs, it is possible that the general education component of the degree may add a different set of values than another.

Can student incomes be tracked outside the state of Virginia? Unfortunately, this is not possible at this point as SCHEV lacks the funds to acquire data from the National Student Clearinghouse to track enrollment outside Virginia and we will begin working in late 2012 to gain access to federal wage and employment datasets.

Are for-profit institutions included in the report? Currently , for-profit institutions are not included as they are not required by state law to provide student-level data to SCHEV.

Are multiple degrees by the same student considered multiple times, or is the highest degree achieved taken? These reports address the highest level of certificate or degree attained by a student in the relevant timeframe.

When will wage data be available for the graduates of years 2010-2011? Typically the wage data for a given calendar finalized in late June of the following year, thus the wage data for 18 months post-completion of the graduates of 2010-11 will be reported in August or September of 2013.

Can I export a wage report to Excel or in PDF format? While it is not possible to export the entire report or data set to MS Excel, it is possible to export individual tables simply by clicking on the Excel icon above the data table.

Can I sort a wage report by wage dollars? Some tables allow sorting by individual columns. In those cases the column header contains a hyperlink for sorting.

How many other states have this grant? Will the data be linked and tracking Virginia graduates through other state wage systems? Over 40 states have received grants for similar projects. Unfortunately, only one or two involve tracking students across state lines as most states are simply trying to build capacity to do the same things that the VLDS has been built to do.

How are the new data going to be used? Initially we expect the data will be used to develop a clearer understanding of the outcomes of graduates at specific points of time (18 months and five years) post-completion. We believe the wage data will add to the discussions regarding college affordability and perhaps guide the state to defining affordability.

These data only reflect post-graduation experiences of alumni who remain in the Commonwealth and enter its workforce; local economies may have a profound impact on wage outcomes; the relationship between a specific area of study and the career one pursues is not always clear; and the decisions of graduates are highly individual and varied. Because of these limitations which are detailed blow, SCHEV strongly cautions reviewers not to use the short-term wage outcomes of recent graduates to measure the quality or long-term effectiveness of any of Virginia?s individual institutions.

What other elements of student data, wage data, or other state-held data will be added in the future? By August 2013, SCHEV will data regarding the known education-related debt of graduates taken in pursuit of these degrees. We hope to add student enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse to add information about the numbers of students pursuing higher level credentials outside Virginia. Likewise, we hope to add employment data for federal employees to expand the wage analyses.

Beyond that we plan to add research performed by institutional faculty on using the underlying data to study student outcomes at various transition points in their educational pathways (such as high school to college, community college to university) to find ways to increase students success. We also plan studies using the data focusing on the relationships between various aspects of a college education and long term wage outcomes well beyond the five-year mark.

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