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  • First-Destination Standards and Protocols: Key Questions and Answers

    At the end of January 2014, NACE released its First-Destination Standards and Protocols, which provide career centers with direction for capturing graduate outcomes; in February, the association offered a free webinar to provide members with an opportunity to learn more. Here are some of the questions—and answers—that arose from the webinar and other sources.

    When do the new standards and protocols go into effect?
    Immediately. NACE encourages career centers to use these new standards and protocols to gather, analyze, and report data for the Class of 2014.

    Which degree levels do the standards and protocols address?
    Currently, the standards and protocols are designed for use with associate and bachelor’s degree students. NACE plans to expand these to include advanced degrees.

    How do the standards define the graduating class?
    The graduating class is made up of students who graduated from July 1 through June 30; so, the Class of 2014 is comprised of students who graduated from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014. This is consistent with the definition used by the U.S. Department of Education in gathering education statistics for its IPEDS database.

    This timeframe is likely to be a challenge for some institutions that define graduating class differently. If this is the case with your school, NACE recommends that you seek support from institutional research and other leadership to use the July 1 – June 30 timeframe; explain the initiative and its national scope.

    When should we collect, analyze, and submit our data for the Class of 2014?
    The primary data-collection period is July 1 through December 31.

    However, as a best practice, NACE recommends that you begin surveying Class of 2014 students before they leave campus, and continue to survey them through December 31, 2014. Use January and early February to put the data together and analyze the data.

    NACE will notify schools in February 2015 about when and how to submit summary data to NACE. This is open to all schools, and is, of course, voluntary. NACE will use the data reported as its general reporting and trend-sharing data.

    (Note: Participation in the NACE first-destination survey initiative does not preclude individual institutions from continuing to collect and report additional data at other intervals for their own purposes or the purposes of their state systems.)

    If we currently conduct a first-destination survey at graduation and a nine-month follow-up survey, would this new protocol combine the two into one continuous survey?
    The best practice methodology is to begin to communicate with students before they graduate and leave your campus. Instead of thinking about one-time efforts, think about continuing to identify those people whose status is unknown, who are still seeking, or from whom you have not heard. Survey them continuously over that period—monthly, for example—to keep them engaged and so that the data collection is ongoing rather than episodic.

    We are a two-year college where most of our students graduate and transfer to four-year colleges. Will this be data collected in the first-destination survey standards?
    Yes, continuing education is one of the outcomes for both two-year and four-year schools.

    Can you explain the terms “knowledge rate” and “career outcome rate” that are used in these standards?
    NACE’s First-Destinations Surveys Team coined the term “knowledge rate” to be used in lieu of “survey response rate” to reflect the approach of going beyond simply relying on a survey for obtaining outcomes information.

    It’s important to think about not how many graduates responded to your survey, but to identify the percentage of graduates for whom you have knowledge about their first-destination career outcomes. This is an acceptable research methodology as long as the data are reliable and verifiable. NACE is encouraging institutions to look at other legitimate sources of finding critical outcome information, such as faculty, employers, and social media. When using these sources, make sure to verify the outcome.

    The team also opted to move away from the notion of “placement rate” to focus on “career outcome rate,” which is the percentage of graduates who are engaged in a career outcome. The standards define career outcomes and take a structured approach that incorporates certain categories into career outcomes. For instance, both full- and part-time work are included as a career outcome, and the standards distinguish voluntary service programs from employment, but include the voluntary service programs as part of the career outcome rate so they reflect positively on the individual graduate and on the institution.

    How was the goal of 65 percent knowledge rate determined?
    The team chose a knowledge rate that would be manageable and achievable for institutions that have conducted previous first-destination surveys as well as those that have not conducted such a survey. Remember that you are not looking for a response rate of 65 percent; rather, you are looking to hit that mark in your knowledge rate. Knowledge rate allows for multiple sources of data, not just survey responses.

    How do we provide input on the first-destination standards and survey?
    NACE welcomes your feedback and ideas surrounding the first-destination standards. Please provide your comments and questions by e-mailing Ed Koc at

    Get more: View the webinar archive and access the first-destination standards and protocols at