A new study by Gallup and educational technology company 2U suggests that online education, which has taken center stage in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic, could play a positive role in fostering greater equity in and access to quality higher education.
Findings from the second annual Gallup-2U Graduate Alumni Outcomes Study, conducted in late 2020 with recent online graduate degree alumni from 2U partner programs, show it is possible for online education to deliver equitable, high-quality academic experiences and positive career outcomes to students and alumni who are traditionally underserved in higher education.
2U Partner Program Alumni Achieve Equitable Positive Career Outcomes
The study reveals that nearly all Black alumni (94%), like White alumni (97%), report achieving a positive career outcome after graduation -- whether it was finding a more fulfilling career path, making a career change, achieving a promotion or salary growth, or emerging with more up-to-date skills. Further, first-generation alumni (97%) are just as likely as those who are not the first in their family to attend or graduate from college (96%) to achieve a positive career outcome after graduation.
Black alumni and first-generation alumni from 2U partner programs are choosing to go to graduate school for largely the same reasons as their White and non-first-generation counterparts -- to pursue a more fulfilling career.
In addition, Black and first-generation alumni are just as likely as their counterparts to find these fulfilling jobs after graduation. Sizable majorities of White alumni (60%), Black alumni (58%), and alumni of other races and ethnicities (62%) specifically say they found a more fulfilling career after graduation.
Bar graph. Black and first-generation alumni are just as likely as their counterparts to find these fulfilling jobs after graduation. Sizable majorities of White alumni (60%), Black alumni (58%) and alumni of other races and ethnicities (62%) specifically say they found more fulfilling careers after graduation.
Among those who found a more fulfilling career, similar majorities (85% of White alumni, 85% of Black alumni, and 84% of those of other races and ethnicities) rate the importance of their online graduate degree program to finding that career a "4" or "5," with "5" meaning very important.
Success After Graduation Requires Support to Reduce Inequities
Although they achieve positive career outcomes, Black and first-generation alumni experience inequities in their careers after graduation, highlighting areas where higher education could play a greater role in supporting the long-term success of graduates.
For example, Black alumni are nearly as likely as White alumni to earn a promotion after graduation, but they are less likely to see their wages increase or to change their field of work. Further, Black 2U partner program alumni (27%) are less likely than White alumni (41%) to be engaged at work. However, these differences in employee engagement levels are not unique to 2U partner program alumni and are part of a much broader discussion about race in the workplace.
Together, these data reinforce the need for higher education institutions to not only build equitable experiences in their classrooms but also provide more intentional support to alumni in building the competencies, connections and career skills that position them for success after graduation.