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On campus beat: St. Olaf uses data to argue its worth

  • Article by: Jenna Ross
  • Star Tribune
  • May 30, 2012 - 5:10 PM

Go to St. Olaf College's website and you'll see what the 2011 graduates are up to. Not just that one star who snagged the job at General Mills or the three now studying at Yale University. Most of them.

The college is now publishing detailed employment and salary data for the 92 percent of 2011 graduates who could be surveyed or otherwise found. Click on students who majored in environmental studies and find out where the 19 of them are working or studying, whether they're employed part time or full time, how many of them are in AmeriCorps.

"This is our answer to the question: Is a liberal-arts degree good for anything other than personal fulfillment?" David Anderson, the college's president, said in an online video.

The site, which went live last week, goes "way beyond what other colleges are sharing," Anderson said. In March, a spokeswoman for the Council of Independent Colleges agreed, saying that its president and researcher had never heard of a nonprofit, private college making such data public.

Anderson, in a video update, addressed the "national conversation" about the cost of college, the debt of graduates and the employment prospects after school. Pressures are particularly acute for liberal-arts schools.

St. Olaf's price tag for the 2012-13 year is $48,650 for tuition, room and board, although most students will pay less after subtracting scholarships.

"It's a fair question," Anderson said. "Are liberal-arts colleges like St. Olaf able now to prepare students for lives that will be marked by financial independence, professional accomplishment and personal fulfillment?"

This new information, online at www.stolaf.org/return, proves the value, he argues.

Of the 92 percent of 688 students the college knows about, 70 percent were working, serving in the military or doing a full-time volunteer program. About 26 percent were continuing school. One percent were "still working on it." One percent responded: "other adventures."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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