South Dakota System Tracks Student Employment Outcomes

by Jenna Leventoff
July 31, 2015

Recently, the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation launched the South Dakota Postsecondary Graduate Employment and Wage Outcomes system, which is intended to provide information about the links between postsecondary education and employment outcomes. The system was sparked by a 2012 Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The online system provides aggregated employment outcome data about students who graduated from South Dakota’s five public universities and four technical institutes between 2005 and 2013, and who got jobs in the state after graduation. Users can search employment outcomes by school type, general area of study (such as social sciences), more specific area of study (such as anthropology), and graduation year. Metrics include how many graduates are earning wages in South Dakota, the industry distribution of wage earners, as well as average and median wages.

In order to protect student’s privacy, the system only provides metrics for a particular postsecondary education program if five or more graduates have valid wage records.

The data was provided through a collaboration between South Dakota’s Department of Labor and Regulation, the Board of Regents, and the Department of Education. It was linked using students’ social security numbers.

South Dakota’s system will enable individuals, career counselors, and policymakers to make informed career decisions. “Making this data match is also an essential step in creating the most effective workforce development strategies,” said state Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman.

Unlike websites for some other states, South Dakota’s system does not show employment outcomes for programs at particular schools. Accordingly, it is better suited to help students learn about job prospects for majors and career paths than it is to help students pick between different schools.

However, the data does reveal differences in earnings between different degree levels in the same field of study. For example, average earnings are greater for students with a bachelor’s degree in computer science than for students with an associate’s degree.

A key tenant of WDQC’s policy agenda is to assess employment outcomes for all education and training programs. South Dakota is one of a growing number of states that have created a tool to track student employment outcomes. Other states with similar systems include Maine, North Carolina, and Minnesota. WDQC will continue to call attention to states advancing this goal.