DALLAS – Dallas College has no shortage of incredible student success stories; each semester students overcome barriers and reap the benefits of a Dallas College education—both for themselves and the community. The Research Institute at Dallas College, launched in 2021 to explore the postsecondary education needs and value of a college education for the larger Dallas community, recently conducted a comprehensive survey to capture the critical voices of Dallas College alumni.
Conducted in conjunction with Strada Education Network, several community colleges participated in the fall 2022 pilot survey. More than 1,500 Dallas College alumni (associate degree, certificate and transfer students) responded about their career and wage outcomes, and how they feel their education at Dallas College contributed to their success. Compared to respondents from all participating institutions, Dallas College alumni more strongly agreed that their community college education was worth the cost (57% compared to 33%). The majority of Dallas College alumni (51%) strongly agreed that the institution had helped them achieve their goals (compared to 29% of respondents across all institutions).
Furthermore, 40% of Dallas College alumni reported earnings greater than $50,000 per year (compared to 30% from other institutions). These results indicate that former Dallas College students perceive a high return on investment in their postsecondary education, particularly from a financial point of view. This was especially true of associate degree completers, a full 70% of whom strongly agreed that their Dallas College education was worth the cost. (Survey results are visualized in this infographic.)
Dallas College’s Office of Alumni Strategy and Relations has been instrumental in developing an alumni network to help connect the Research Institute to individuals interested in participating in its projects. Alumni provide perspectives that current students simply can’t, said Dr. Sayeeda Jamilah, the survey research analyst who leads the Research Institute’s work with former students. “Alumni can talk about their educational journeys holistically—they’re able to give us important information about their academic and work experiences before, during and after Dallas College. We learn if they’ve transferred and earned higher degrees, if they’ve obtained occupations in their fields of study and if they’re gainfully employed and earning a living wage. Alumni insights about their Dallas College experiences help us to improve programming and processes for our current students and increase their engagement.”
Former students are eager to participate in the research, recognizing that their feedback can directly inform decision-makers. A smaller, enthusiastic group of participants shared additional time, providing the Research Institute with qualitative feedback via focus groups and interviews. These conversations provide a more in-depth, nuanced and holistic look at their experiences. The results emphasize the value that a Dallas College education has brought alumni. Speaking to someone a step removed from faculty members can elicit feedback that former students might have avoided in course evaluations or surveys while still enrolled.
“The novelty of the data and methodological process of its collection can open doors to initiatives that improve Dallas College student experiences and outcomes, strengthen the institution and ultimately, strengthen the Dallas community,” said Dr. Jamilah.
As one of the largest community colleges in the country, Dallas College is the first touchpoint with postsecondary education for many North Texas residents. The college is committed to serving the diverse population of the metroplex and is closely intertwined with the community’s K-12 system, public resources, employers and the economy. After attending Dallas College, and even after attaining a four-year degree, most alumni continue to reside in the DFW area. That means it is critical for Dallas College leadership and its community to have a complete picture of alumni outcomes. These findings have important implications for regional educational attainment, the labor market and economic wellness in the Dallas region.
Ultimately, the purpose of looking back at alumni experiences is to look forward to an even brighter future for Dallas College and its students. Thanks to the breadth of quality data provided by former students, the Research Institute has already been able to present recommendations to multiple stakeholders across the institution, including advisors, academic departments and executive leadership. The team plans to take the advice of one survey respondent: “Continue to follow up with alumni! It shows you care and that we are still important to you even after we have completed our education journey.”
“This important work by the Research Institute allows Dallas College to begin systematically and holistically assessing our most important stakeholders, the students who we have served and that now serve the local community as Dallas College alumni,” said Dr. Beatriz Joseph, vice chancellor for student success. “Hearing directly from them about their needs and how they perceive the value of their college education will only help us get better at delivering an education that serves the entire community.”
To read more of Dr. Jamilah’s work on student loan debt, Dallas-area high school graduates, college-going, and to access the full collection of the Research Institute’s interactive dashboards, reports and infographics, please visit the Research Institute’s website.
About Dallas College
Dallas College, formerly the Dallas County Community College District, was founded in 1965, and consists of seven campuses: Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake and Richland. Dallas College offers online learning and serves more than 125,000 credit and continuing education students annually. Dallas College also offers dual credit for students in partner high schools and early college high schools throughout Dallas County. Students benefit from partnerships with local business leaders, school districts and four-year universities, and Dallas College offers associate degree and career/technical certificate programs in more than 100 areas of study, as well as a bachelor’s degree in education. Based on annual enrollment, it is the largest community college in Texas.
About the Research Institute at Dallas College
The Research Institute at Dallas College integrates research efforts from multiple sectors and regional partners to assess the long-term outcomes of Dallas College students and their impact on the Dallas-Fort Worth area. To underscore the institute’s continuous focus on student success, it is housed within the innovative Student Success division. The Research Institute collaborates not only with other offices across Dallas College, but also with numerous community partners to achieve the most comprehensive and accurate look at how North Texans are reaching their educational and workforce goals. The Research Institute consists of the following members: Dr. David Mahan (executive director), Navi Dhaliwal (economic analyst), McKenna Griffin (data visualization specialist), Dr. Sayeeda Jamilah (survey research analyst), Dr. Emily Sharma (technical writer), Dillon Lu (data science analyst), Melissa Williamson (data science analyst), and Gaby Bautista (sr. administrative assistant). It is housed in the Student Success Division of Dallas College under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Dr. Beatriz Joseph.