The Feb. 17 article “What will you be making at 34?” created a very inaccurate portrait of Davenport University, one of the few institutions of higher education in the state of Michigan with the specific, stated mission of preparing students for well-paying careers. This was an article that would have benefitted greatly from fact-checking beforehand, which would have helped prevent classifying Davenport as a for-profit institution, which has not been the case since 1954.
The larger issue, however, is that the article seeks to predict future earnings potential of students based on historical data of past students. While this may not be a problem for many colleges that have changed very little over the past few decades in terms of the degrees they offer or the students they serve, for Davenport, the article does not provide an accurate picture of who we are today.
The difference between Davenport in 2000 and today cannot be overstated. In the early 2000s, Davenport was merging three separate open-enrollment colleges with commuter campuses, mostly offering associate degrees. Today, we are a single university with admissions standards in place, mostly offering four-year and graduate degrees tied to job market trends. Nearly all of our associate degree programs have been discontinued since 2010. Also, in 2005, Davenport opened its first residential campus, which has significantly changed our student body.
Through quality initiatives we launched in 2010, we have seen tremendous progress in student outcomes, including a 116-percent increase in our graduation rate and satisfaction rates for students and graduates at all-time highs. In 2014, Davenport was one of the first colleges in the nation to offer an employment guarantee, assuring qualified students they will land a job in their chosen field within six months of graduating. That guarantee — meant to hold Davenport accountable for how it prepares students for jobs — now extends to its accounting, nursing and networking degree programs.
Our own survey of 2014-15 Davenport graduates shows that 59 percent were earning more than $40,000 just six months after they graduated. When counseling students, our Career Services staff use a salary calculator provided by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, as well as the resources of O-Net to help determine projected salaries. Davenport students have a clear idea about their income potential in the career field they have chosen. Obviously, the income expectations for today’s students earning four-year degrees in networking security, nursing, accounting and international business are higher than what two-year degree earners from an open enrollment institution could expect in the early 2000s.
As the study showed (but the article did not), compared to most private and area public universities, Davenport actually has a strong record of enrolling low-income students. About 40 percent of all DU graduates are of the first generation in their families’ histories to earn college degrees, with 44 percent of all DU undergraduate students qualifying for federal Pell Grants due to financial need. For Davenport, it is a point of pride, as we are helping change the trajectories for these families.
While the study highlights the need for all Michigan universities to do more to help students from low-income quintiles into higher-income quintiles, it is not reflective of the Davenport University we know today, which is helping its students to “Get Where the World is Going” in well-paying, in-demand careers in business, technology, health and urban education sectors.
Richard J. Pappas, Ed.D.